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DateLine Sunday, 02 December 2007

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Let's grow Dragon Fruit

A multi-purpose plant well grown in Sri Lanka:

Essentially agricultural and known for its expertise in the plantations over the centuries, Sri Lanka is becoming very innovative; moving away from the hackneyed to a more attractive and beneficial facet; with new found favour is the Dragon Fruit crop, the wonder plant internationally renowned for its therapeutic and nutritional value.

The Dragon Fruit, pithaya, native to Central and South America, is grown extensively in Mexico, in greenhouses in Vietnam, China, Thailand, and Malaysia and could soon prove to be a lucrative market in Sri Lanka as the climatic conditions in the wet zone are best suited for growing the plant says Ranjith Samaraweera, Consultant of a Dragon Fruit Plantation Project, Sunrain Gardens and Plant Nursery and landscapist who went to Thailand on a special training programme and learnt about the Dragon Fruit.

As zealous plant lovers flocked to the ever popular Vihara Maha Devi Park at Town Hall, the centre of attraction of many spectacular events of interest among adults and children; Saturday's specialty was the focus on the Dragon Fruit plant, its therapeutic benefits and its new findings; an internationally lucrative market.

"The Dragon Fruit, a member of the cactaceae family, despite its many health benefits and spectacular appearance has gone unnoticed by many over decades. It comes in three varieties red-Hylocereus Polyrhigus, white-Hylocereus Undatus and yellow- Selenusereus Megalanthus, the red being the best and said to contain a natural antioxidant known to fight cancer, heart disease, lower blood pressure and control gastritis while in Germany this is even being used on research to find ways and means of combating the AIDS virus.

The fruit with yellowish seeds is apparently sweeter but its seeds are not that easily digestible. One flower of the Dragon Fruit cooked could suffice for 3-4 members of a family and it is proven to be very nutritious. Around 7000 seeds of the fruit is said to lower cholesterol levels too.

Today, the Dragon Fruit is the leading fruit export of Vietnam while in Thailand it is also used to maintain body shape and stay young. The introduction of this plant in many countries is fast growing and Sri Lanka can grow it successfully", the expert added.

" Interestingly the mythology and sensation surrounding this fabulous fruit can be attributed to a legend which says that the fruit was created thousands of years ago by fire breathing dragons and during a battle when these dragons could no longer breathe fire the last thing that would come out would be the fruit.

As an indication of victory the fruit is collected and presented to the Emperor as a coveted treasure after the dragon is slain .The soldiers would then butcher the dragon and eat the flesh and it was believed that those who feasted on the flesh would be endowed with the strength and ferocity of the dragon and they too would be coveted by the Emperor".
 


Dragon Fruit Flower

This amazing plant which is very well grown in Taiwan and Israel is like the Kadupul flower, it blooms at night and dies by morning due to its non resistance to sunlight.

It can be grown at 21-31 degrees C ideally in close proximity to a continuous water sprinkle system or at least a well where rainfall is 600mm up to 1300 with moderate sunlight available for eight hours of the day continuously and can be even grown in home gardens, except in Nuwara Eliya which is misty and unsuitable for such cultivation.

Marshy lands as well as flood prone areas are unsuitable for cultivation, he explained.

 


Yellow Dragon Fruit

Demonstrating the growing process of the Dragon fruit plant, Ranjith Samaraweera explained that the plant, quite easy to grow, necessarily needed certain supporting posts and accessories to fix it up at the initial stages.

A hole 2x1' should be dug firstly. There should be another small hole from the centre of the same deep hole 1x1' to fix the concrete post. The concrete post has to be fixed in the small hole and filled with concrete layers for strength. Place about four plants around the post and water it three times per week.

You could reap your first harvest within 9-14 months if the plantation is well maintained and its fruits within a year, during the harvest time, April-October. From one post, i.e. four plants during harvest time you could reap 10-15 kgs while in the second year the yield would amount to 20-35 kgs per post and an average of 110 kgs for eight consecutive years from the third season onwards which could increase if the plantation is well maintained. If it is treated on a commercial basis harvest could be obtained up to 15 years but you require a couple of acres in the wet zone, Mr.Samarweera further explained.

"The Dragon Fruit project if embarked upon would bring economic benefits and be a very good foreign exchange earner too. If produced on a large scale it would definitely attract the international market as well." The expert urged all 'to grow more dragon fruit in Sri Lanka'.

rosanne@sundayobserver.lk
 

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