There is a golden fruit in the local and world markets but no Kenyan farmer is working to cultivate it. The Dragon Fruit is sold at KSh2,300 per kilogram by Nakumatt Supermarket, which sources them from Vietnam, one of the world’s biggest producers.
But Kenya can produce its own supplies, if more farmers are encouraged to pursue the crop. Fred Acosta, a technology product supplier, who also dabbles with farming, recently acquired cuttings, and he plans to offer some to the market once his stock is sufficient. He is one of the handful of people in the country trying out the crop.
The Dragon Fruit is sweet and crunchy, with a flavor that is like a cross between kiwi and pear. It is low in calories and offers numerous nutrients, including Vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, plus fiber and antioxidants.
The plant can be propagated from seeds, but those who choose this method will have to wait a few years before they get any fruit.
Stem cuttings are the preferred method of propagation.
Once you acquire fresh cuttings, it is best to place them in a shade for a week or more before planting to allow the cut ends to dry and heal. This will help prevent fungal infections before placing it into soil.
After the ‘healing’ happens, you can transfer the plant to a container with a well-drained potting mix, which will encourage roots to grow, before the pants are shifted to the ground. The plant grows well in sunny locations.
Cuttings take around four months to develop really strong root systems.
The plants, which are vine-like cactuses, are climbers and need support as they grow. Dragon fruit plants often grow as tall as six feet and it is recommended that you keep directing them to their support.
This cactus grows some thick and heavy stems, and it is recommended that you make the support strong enough to handle this weight. You can use pieces of fabric to tie the plant to the support- wires and thin twines should not be used because they can cut through the stems. After some time, the stems develop aerial root, which grip onto the supporting structures.
Keeping soils well-drained can be a challenge during rainy seasons, but one way to help maximize drainage is by planting the cuttings in mounds that are at least one-foot high.
Flowering and fruiting
Dragon fruit flowers are edible when in the bud stage as a cooked vegetable, otherwise the flowers open up and then yield a fruit after four to five weeks. Flowering is triggered by heavy rains and warm weather.
The fruits are harvested when they are fiery red.