The last three months have been rather busy.  It was the end of our first year in Spain, we moved for the third time since arriving here, my sister came to visit and we finally got our act together and made a tangible effort to obtain our Spanish driving license (carnet de conducir).

There is a list of nationalities that are allowed to exchange their country of origin driving license for a Spanish one. Say for example if we were from Morocco, Turkey, South Korea or Algeria we would be able to just exchange our license for a Spanish one. But unfortunately, Mexico and South Africa are not on the list. So we had to make a detour.

Somewhere in November, after studying through a two-hundred-page book and working through two thousand mock exams, we went to write our learners.  It was a thirty-question test and we were allowed to make three mistakes. I made five. Needless to say, the only L I was wearing for the last three months was the one on my forehead.

Wil, the more dedicated and structured one between the two of us, passed with a flying colourful single error!

Monday, the 15th of February 2016, he also passed his practical driving exam. Which now makes him the proud owner of a Spanish driving license. The following day I went to write my learners again. This time I passed. At this point in time, Wil can drive legally. I may drive with Wil as a passenger, however, the guy is stressed enough as is.  Just before posting, I learnt that I may only drive with a registered driving instructor. I could practically hear Wil heave a sigh of relief.

This afternoon we are going to collect our car, more than a year after we bought it. It has been waiting patiently for us in the shop since February 2015. See, we needed a Spanish driving license to obtain Spanish car insurance. This was not explained to us. Not until moments after we purchased our car and wanted to leave with it. No can do, without car insurance, we were not allowed to remove our car from the car dealer’s premises. Say wha…?

In my mother tongue, when something becomes quite challenging, we say it is a taai tameletjie. During the course of last year, the words taai tameletjie came up quite often, for various reasons. Every time we said it we linked it to pitaya. The last two syllables of the word pitaya when said together, sound a lot like taai, which is why we decided to write about this fruit today, the day we finally get our car and get unstuck out of the taai tameletjie rut.

What is pitaya?

Pitaya is a collective name that is used for the more well known dragon fruit and lesser known fruit from the organ pipe type cacti (Stenocereus spp.). One variety of the latter is found in the arid regions of the Americas and known as pitaya dulce meaning sweet pitaya.

www.avarietyfruits.com Pitaya fruit on cactus.jpg
Pitaya dulce on cactus

Where can you find this fruit?

We lived in Hermosillo, Sonora for almost three years, during which time we came across pitaya dulce,  also called ool by the indigenous Seri people.

The Seri people harvest the fruit and consume it for its many beneficial properties.  The fruit is also thirst-quenching, which helps when temperatures soar to 50 degrees Celsius.

Although not commercially available, many people of Sonora harvest the fruit and sell it on the street markets. We saw it being sold next to the highway on route to Nogales and at the local market in Hermosillo, Sonora (Mercado Municipal de Hermosillo).

What does pitaya dulce taste like and what can you do with it?

The taste is subtle and not overly sweet, like cucumber with a dash of sweetness or watermelon toward the rind. Not at all acidic. It has a smooth refreshing flavour. When I asked the people what one can do with the fruit, the answers were endless, as it ought to be in a local market in Mexico! You can add it to cream or milk to make ice-cream, it also makes a delicious vibrant sorbet. The flesh of the pitaya dulce is a deep red colour that brightens up any smoothie or salad.  Blended with some banana it made beautiful pink ice lollies for the girls.

When is it harvested and what is the look-and-feel of pitaya dulce?

It is harvested from May through June in Sonora. When the fruit is ripe the average size is about 50 millimeters.  The colour of the skin varies between green and khaki green to light maroon. The colour of the flesh is a deep red-maroon with many scattered black seeds. The flesh is somewhat firm which melts away easily in your mouth, leaving behind the texture of the seeds. It is a captivating fruit, with its round shape all covered with thorns it appears archaic. The Brix of the fruit measured between 8-11. The most convenient way to consume a pitaya dulce is to slice the fresh fruit in two and scoop out the delectable red flesh.

Beautifully nutritious pitaya dulce

Why we love pitaya dulce

This little power fruit can reduce high blood pressure and stabilize blood sugar levels. It also contains ascorbic acid, phosphorus, calcium and is high in fiber and anti-oxidants.

Furthermore, it isn’t as hypersensitive as other less nutritious commercially available fruits and is able to grow in extremely arid conditions and requires very little water.

Taking the above into consideration, why is this fruit not commercially available?

The thorns could make it more difficult to harvest or the yield per hectare might not be economically viable. However, we think this is definitely a fruit of the future since it is such a water-wise plant and so deliciously nutritious.

So, should you ever find yourself in front of an organ pipe cactus, somewhere in the Sonora desert, with some ools, remember this interesting fact: When you can rub the thorns off, you know the fruit is ripe. Don’t say we never teach you anything…

This post is dedicated to all the kind hearts that kept me smiling during our time in Hermosillo, Sonora. 


4 thoughts on “Pitaya

  1. Hello Mariska

    Heerlik om weer van jou en Wil te hoor. Ek het jou storie oor die bestuurslisensie baie geniet – spaar my ‘n nuwe bestuurslisensie op hierdie stadium van my lewe en dit nogal in spaans.

    Ons geniet jou blog baie en ek moet gewoonlik uitprint sodat die res van die kantoor ook kan sien wat jy skryf. My oudste seun Benjamin is ook versot op die wetenskap en alles wat met internasionale feite te doen het. Hy volg jou stories getrou en vra baie gereeld wanneer die volgende storie oor ‘n nuwe interessante vrugte kultivar kom.

    Lyk asof julle ingesettle is in Spanje. Hoop dit gaan goed?

    Liezel Kriegler

    Liked by 1 person

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