Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Rotten Year for Pitahaya

My poor pitahaya all have ended up like this one. It has not been a good season.

I love pitahaya, and normally enjoy a modest harvest of what's also known in English as "dragon fruit" from plants that grow along the wall of my patio. But this year I have not had even one taste of this delicious treat from my own garden. It has been literally a rotten year for pitahaya in Mérida.

In July I was excited when the plants began to bud and the pitahaya flowers to bloom. One evening I had more than twenty of the enormous blossoms open at the same time, and sat nearby in the dark to witness as the bats flew in to pollinate them.

The abundant blossoms in July were cause for high hopes.

But my happiness was short-lived. Pitahaya is very sensitive to humidity for a few days during the critical flowering and early fruit-formation stage. And it rained. The developing fruit yellowed and fell off within a few days.

In Mérida, this has been the pattern all summer. I have lost in excess of one hundred pitahaya this way. And now, just as the pitahaya season is drawing to a close, when I should be savoring cool glasses of agua de pitahaya and fruit salads garnished with its delicate taste, the plants have valiantly given it one last try. Feebly they flowered again over the past ten days or so. However the almost-daily drenching rains we have been having for the past few weeks made short work of the young flowers and fruits. Not one has matured this year.

So it looks as if I will have to wait another ten months or so before I can again hope to enjoy this wonderful tropical fruit. I love to wake in the morning, pick one or two fresh pitahaya in the garden, and prepare my morning drink of agua de pitahaya. There are few nicer ways to start breakfast around here.

But I will move on and try not to think about what I've missed this season. One thing that I have learned living in tropical Yucatán is patience, especially with nature. And I think less and less of life and existence as having a timeline; it's more like a spiral. Everything comes around again, sooner or later. Pitahaya season will be here again before we know it.

Here's an earlier post about pitahaya, including a recipe for making agua de pitahaya.


17 comments:

  1. I've become a big fan of this drink since reading your earlier tale about it. I'm looking forward to the time when I'll be able to grow my own.

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    1. Next time you are around, I'll give you some starts. It takes two or three years for them to start producing.

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  2. As a very recent convert to "Dragon Fruit," I'm really sad to hear this. I was down in July just in time, I suppose!

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    1. Well, Lee, there has been some pitahaya in the market, so some areas have had better luck with weather. In my neighborhood, though, it's been a 100% failure. I tried once to put plastic bags on the fruit, but it ended up not helping much, and it was a lot of work. I have decided to let nature take its course. This year, things didn't work out well.

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  3. I agree Marc, there is nothing quite like the pitahya. How lucky you are to have them growing in your garden, although sadly, not this year. I've never seen the flowers before. They are absolutely amazing. Thanks so much for sharing the pictures! Actually the fruit is fairly scarce here in the mountains and there has been very little in the mercados this summer.

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    1. I wonder if it actually grows there. Perhaps what you see in the markets is shipped in. It seems they need a lot of high heat and sun. Your area may not have the ideal climate.

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    2. No I don't think they do grow here. I'm pretty sure they come from a warmer area, perhaps the Yucatán. There are usually more of them available in the mercados when they are in season though, so maybe you are not the only one with failed crops this year.

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  4. That explains everything. The reason I have not matured. Too much rain in Oregon when I was blossoming.

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  5. If it's not one thing it's another, like Roseanne Rosannadeana used to say. I'm not crazy about tropical heat and humidity, but damn, the vegetation and the flowers are amazing. In San Miguel we're into the dry season which will bring--for about five months straight--perfect temperatures and humidity but a pretty barren desert landscape.

    al

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  6. Hi Marc,
    We lost all of our pears and apples this year due to excessive and lengthy warmth in March, while we were still in Merida. The heat woke the trees early, leaving them vulnerable when frosts and freezes hammered them during blossom and fruit-set. WNY, a major fruit-growing area, is bereft of pome fruit this year. So I know how you feel. I especially miss fruit from our asian pear trees ("Korean Giant") which is typically very hardy. Global warming sucks!

    While warming won't be easily fixed, there may be a basic solution which could solve your problem. There was a study done at Cornell a few years ago which might serve you well. I suspect that the "yellows" are due to simple rot, —or, less likely, due to poor drainage. The solution could be as easy as spraying the blossoms with a baking soda spray to which a drop of horticultural "spreader-sticker" is added to keep the spray from rinsing off. Apply it BEFORE rain, like putting on a raincoat, which is useless after rain. (But if the yellows are due to CMV – cucumber mosaic virus – the problem is beyond my skill set.) It's an easy remedy. And it sounds like this fruit is worth the effort. I hope someday to taste it.
    ~eric.
    MeridaGOround.com

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  7. Alas, you did get to enjoy those gigantic, magnificent blossoms! All was not lost, including your admirable patience and optimism.

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  8. The blossoms are gorgeous! As far as the fruit, I have never come across it, wonder if they have it in Melaque.

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  9. Are many of the pitahaya growing areas having this problem? It seems that the quality of the dragon fruit in the stores up here has been lacking this year.

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  10. OMG those flowers are amazing aren't they! Odd though - we had a bumper year for pitaya, not quite as many as last year and I believe it is because a fishtail palm we planted several years ago is throwing more shade onto the fine. They do love the sun!

    We so over planted, and as you know are in a frenzy of removing things. Too much shade and nothing is happy, well the mosquitos are, but that's about it!

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  11. Si, Debi-- Fishtail palms are wonderful! I don't have Pitayas in my garden, but I sure appreciate the Fishtails for their shade and ease of maintenance.

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  12. I have heard that you need two different varieties for crosspolinating pitaya. Do you feel this to be correct?

    Do you know where I can get the other varieties?

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    1. I've heard that before but never investigated it. My pitahaya always has bloomed and borne fruit and I have only one variety. But perhaps there is a another variety in the area that I do not know about. It's a good question.

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