By MY Team
Its curious name, oblong shape and a leathery skin that contains some spikes do not prepare one for what they get inside - sweet, juicy and abundant flesh.
Well, these are some of the contradictions of the dragon fruit, a nutritious produce grown by a few in Kenya.
However, it is fast-gaining popularity in the country thanks to its benefits, with a kilo comprising of three fruits going for at least Sh1,000 currently.
Fallen retail giant Nakumatt used to import the fruits from Vietnam and would sell a kilo at Sh2,000. It was the only retailer stocking the fruit.
Currently, you are likely not get it on the shelves of supermarkets or fresh produce markets because most buyers order directly from the few farms that grow them even before the produce matures.
The dragon fruit plant, which belongs to the cactus family, does well in semi-arid areas in particular, what gives it great potential to turn around the regions.
Antony Mugambi, who grows 2,000 dragon fruit plants in Meru County, reckons that the plant is the future of farming in semi-arid regions.
“I can only compare its taste to that of watermelons or strawberries but it is juicier and nutritious, containing protein, carbohydrates, iron, magnesium, fibre, sugars, vitamin A and C,” Mugambi said.
The fruit can be propagated from both seeds or vines harvested from a growing plant. If you want to use seeds, you have to get the fruit and extract them from its succulent flesh, dry thoroughly and then plant.
This is the route that pioneer growers of the fruit took to farm it but currently you can buy a vine at Sh500 each, according to Mugambi, who sells them.
Using vines helps one establish their plantation faster, as the plants easily mature in eight to nine months as long as you feed them with loads of mature.
On the other hand, those using seeds can wait for up to two or three years before the plants mature and bear fruits.
The beauty of dragon fruits is that the seedlings can be planted either in containers or in the open field, making it good for urban dwellers to establish them for their own nutritional needs.
Once they mature, the plants produce beautiful pink flowers from which the juicy fruit emerges surrounded by thorns.
Since it grows in desertic conditions, having thorns is a great survival strategy for this plant – so that marauding animals cannot feed on it.
Dragon fruits, which are harvested using a clipper, are consumed raw or can be used in value addition to better products like cream, juices and yoghurt. The fruit is one of the products farmers sell on Mkulima Young website
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