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Dragon Fruit’ One Answer To Farm Water Shortage

— San Diego farmers looking for a profitable plant that will reduce their water bill have one strong option.

Aired 10/30/12 on KPBS News.

San Diego farmers explore the possibilities of dragon fruit, a new cash crop that doesn't need a lot of water.

Dragon fruit is now being grown in San Diego County
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Above: Dragon fruit is now being grown in San Diego County

Dragon fruit grows on a cactus and it's native to Central America. Today, it's seen by some local farmers as an alternative to citrus and avocado groves, which are more water intensive.

Ramiro Lobo is a farm adviser with UC Cooperative Extension, and he's been doing field trials of dragon fruit plants in San Diego. Lobo said when he was a kid, the fruit grew wild in arid parts of his native Honduras.

He said modern varieties have a reddish flesh whose taste and texture resemble kiwi or watermelon.

"It's a combination of flavors. I mean different varieties will strike you differently. Some will be really juicy and the flavor will hit you right up front," said Lobo.

Lobo said several San Diego farmers have cultivated the fruit, though it's hard to know how commercially successful it will be. He said one farmer in Escondido has planted 17 acres.

Eric Larson is the executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau Federation. He said many farmers have become reluctant to invest in growing avocados, San Diego's one-time signature crop, due to the high price of water. And he has seen acres planted in dragon fruit that could be planted in avocados.

"So far, the return looks good," said Larson of San Diego dragon-fruit farms. "For some growers who can find niche market it holds promise."

But Larson added that the market for dragon fruit will be limited. He said once demand is met, farmers won't be able to take it much farther.

Lobo said that so far, most dragon fruit grown grown in San Diego is shipped to markets in LA, where demand is greater. San Diego farmers have to choose crops that have a high return per acre, given the high cost of doing business in San Diego County.

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Avatar for user 'adyaryan'

adyaryan | October 31, 2012 at 1:47 a.m. ― 4 years, 4 months ago

No mention at all of where in San Diego can one buy Dragon Fruit: which markets, for instance. This article is almost useless if readers want to explore the fruit for themselves. Serious omission...editing required. I can't see how growers of Dragon Fruit will ever thrive if no one knows where to buy the produce! And then they will complain that there project failed!!!

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | October 31, 2012 at 9:51 a.m. ― 4 years, 4 months ago

I can't say it looks very appetizing (mainly because of the neon color), but I love trying new fruits and vegetables and would be very interested to see how this tastes.

Bottom line is even if it's easy to grow in our climate, it's not going to be a business success unless it tastes good.

A description of the taste in the story would be helpful (is it sweet or bitter? is the texture mushy, stringy, crisp, fleshy, juicy, etc.? Are the seeds edible?)

And yes, as the above poster stated, where can one be bought locally?

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | October 31, 2012 at 10:37 a.m. ― 4 years, 4 months ago

You can buy dragon fruit (and all kinds of other exotic fruits) at 99 Ranch Market, 7330 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

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