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Anjung Senama

The Dragon Fruit

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Reaping the fruits of his labour


NOT all the bright pink dragon fruit that we see on sale nowadays are imported from Vietnam and Australia. In recent years, they are grown locally and it is often said that ours are sweeter and juicier.  

One such farm is located just past the small Sepang town. I learnt of its existence through restaurant operator Sek Hoon who took us all the way to her hometown in search of the succulent delights.  

If not for the striking colour of the pinecone-shaped fruits sticking out from the dark green fleshy, thorny stems, the place looks just like a cactus farm.  

A total of 1,200 cement poles are erected on the 0.81ha land loosely guarded with low fencing and rusty gate.  

Each pole supports four dragon fruit stems, which are tied together with raffia strings and spill over from an old tyre placed on top of the pole.  

A ramshackle hut stands next to the neatly lined plants to keep all the equipment needed to maintain the farm, such as fertiliser spray and water sprinkler. Four dogs roam about the place.  

“We don’t use pesticide, this is also one of the reasons why I wanted to start a farm in the middle of last year,” said farm owner Yap Tee, 47.  

“It is relatively easy to plant dragon fruits, I don’t need to use pesticide or cover the fruits with plastic bags.  

“However, the cost is expensive and it takes at least six months to bear the first batch of fruits. That is, if the soil is good enough, otherwise it will take up to 18 months,” said the tanned proprietor.  

Yap said he bought the seedlings from an orchard in Kuala Pilah, which was probably the only large-scale dragon fruit orchard then, at a high cost of RM15 each. Then, he and a worker spent four months toiling away in the farm to get things started.  

Yap, who is a construction contractor, spends more than two hours at the farm every evening to trim stems, tie them to the cement poles and remove pests such as ants and snails.  

His dogs help to chase away bigger pests such as monkeys from the nearby jungle.  

Yap’s children sometime take time off from their work schedules to lend him a hand at the farm.  

His granddaughters, aged three and four, are happy with their newfound playground.  

Yap was rewarded for his arduous labour only eight months later. Fruits ripen 30 days after the flowers droop.  

The large white flowers, called Moonflower or Queen of the Night, are a magnificent sight when they bloom at night.  

Open for only one night, the sweet-smelling flowers begin to close when the sun rises and form fruitlets thereafter.  

“The fruit is not really seasonal, but we find more buds after hot spells. Each plant gives between one to 10 fruits per month,” said Yap.  

“The joy of seeing my plants bearing fruits is overwhelming. It makes all my sweat and toil worthwhile,” he said.  

Yap cut open several dragon fruits kept at his hut for us to sample. The fruit’s pulp was a vivid red-purple hue with shinny black seeds.  

“You shouldn’t eat the freshly plucked ones as they have a sour sticky substance,” Sek Hoon was quick to point out. “Keep them in room temperature for three days, store them in the fridge for another one to two days to get the best taste.”  

Yap said the red-pulp dragon fruit was an improved species and was often juicier and sweeter than the imported varieties. 

After tasting the fruits, I guess he’s right.  

“The fruit is now highly sought after for its nutritional values. My friend told me that his mother, who had to depend on medication for constipation problem, got rid of it after eating one dragon fruit per day!” he said excitedly.  

It is learned that the fruits’ red pulp can improve eyesight and even lower the risk of cancer.  

They can also be used to make wine.  

Of course, it costs a bit to improve health. Yap sells the dragon fruit at RM12 per kilogram (about two to three fruits). 

The more economical option is to buy the seedlings at RM10 each and grow the plant in your own garden.  

Yap’s dragon fruit is also available at Kampung Story Restaurant in Bandar Damai Perdana, Cheras at the same price.  

For details, call 03-3142 1579, 012-239 0741 (Yap) or 03-9101 2575 (Kampung Story Restaurant).  

Yap sorting out dragon fruit seedings, which he sells at RM10 each.

Three dragon fruits ripe for picking. The fruits ripen 30 days after the flowers droop.