Lettuce Eat Local: Don’t be Dragon your feet into the New Year

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Amanda Miller
Columnist
Lettuce Eat Local

Every year it’s a struggle, remembering to change the date to the next year. I haven’t had to write it many times yet, but my rate of success needs to improve soon or it’s going to be a long year of scribbling out mistakes. Awkwardly, I already started having an issue in December — my brain knew 2024 was close and sometimes it couldn’t immediately remember whether it was coming or already here. I’m guessing having a newborn may have also affected my processing speed. 

But whether we’re ready for it or not, 2024 is here in full swing. So far, however, full swing has been pretty mild in this household. We haven’t had a lot planned, at least not in contrast to the holidays, and the somewhat sedate pace is not unwelcome. 

Not much of that speaks “dragon,” but according to the Chinese zodiac, 2024 is the Year of the Dragon. That doesn’t actually begin until February 10 at the Lunar New Year, but since I put exactly zero stock in the zodiac, it doesn’t matter to me anyway. Personally, I think the dragon idea might be more tied to an earlier day, January 29 — when our son Benson turns three. 

He was pretty chill as a two-year-old, and I always called it the Terrific Twos instead of the Terrible Twos. He clearly had his moments, but overall, we just had fun together. People often warned me that the threes are actually the bad ones, and while I wasn’t sure I loved that kind of “encouragement,” the warning was not misplaced. I’m thinking our dragon this year will be blond-haired and blue-eyed — not to say I’m expecting our child to be terrible, but if there’s a developmental stage where children look innocent enough one moment, then turn around and breathe fire the next, this is it. 

Or rather, one of them. I’ve heard about teenagers, too. 

At any rate, we are in a bit of a more difficult phase with Benson. Not only is there a lot going on in him developmentally, but we did just kind of change his whole world with the addition of a baby sister. He’s actually had a baby sister show up before, along with a big sister, but he was much younger at that point and processed it very differently. We were a family of five then with our foster girls, but we’ve never been a family of four before, so this is still different. He adores Kiah, truly, but the transition — along with dropping his nap — has us living with a sweet yet volatile 2 ½ -foot-tall dragon some days. 

Benson himself doesn’t know much about dragons, but a fire-breathing dragon was his favorite Christmas lights display we drove by. So when I told him we needed to cut up a dragonfruit, of course he was thrilled. Talk about genius advertising: what’s not to love about a spiny yellow fruit of dragons? 

Besides the taste, apparently. Dragons might like the translucent whitish flesh scattered with crunchy black seeds, but my son does not. While legend has dragonfruit appearing as the last breath of a dragon dying in batter, it is actually the fruit of several cactus species; it’s also commonly referred to as pitaya, or moonflower, since the fruit blooms at night. The so-sweet flesh is white or a striking shade of red/pink, and the peel can be yellow, red, or pink, depending on the type. All those funny little seeds make dragonfruit extra nutritious.

I’m wondering if maybe we should make 2024 the Year of the Dragonfruit instead.

 

Dragon Fruit Salad

Most yellow dragonfruit recipes just toss cubes of it into a bowl with some other fruit — pink dragonfruit often gets picked for its vibrant magenta color, landing in smoothies, drinks, or ice creams. While the pink is fun, I think both types taste the same, and I like to eat it in an unblended format so I can enjoy the crunch of the seeds. Avocado is often eaten with/as a fruit in other countries, and its creaminess pairs so well here (and the green color pays homage to dragons). This simple mixture makes a great addition to breakfast, dessert, or snack. 

Prep tips: dragonfruit is not always easy to find, and if you can’t….I’m not sure what to say. Mango or papaya would also taste great here, just not dragon-y. 

1 large avocado

coarse salt

local honey

2 dragonfruits

a splash of fresh lime juice

red pepper flakes

Dice avocado into a small bowl, and gently toss with a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of honey. Cut the dragonfruits in half, and using a spoon, scoop the flesh out of the peel. Dice and add to the avocado, along with lime juice and red pepper flakes to taste. Stir and serve, transferring back to the dragonfruit peel shells if you want to be extra. 

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