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Spain: Dragon fruit gaining ground in Malaga farmA piece of America has become established in the Guadalhorce Valley: the exotic pitaya, also known as dragon fruit, which is gaining ground by leaps and bounds on a farm in Arroyo Coche, in the municipality of Casabermeja. Ecopitaya has been thriving there thanks to the care of Antonio and Cristina Florido. This father and his daughter started cultivating this exotic fruit to introduce it into the domestic market without the need to import it from other continents. The biggest producers are Nicaragua, Colombia, Ecuador, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Israel, among others.
This fruit has a very striking appearance, with bright colours and a white pulp, but its most remarkable feature is its medicinal and organoleptic properties. According to Antonio, "there are studies that say that it is very good against cancer." Furthermore, it is rich in iron, calcium and phosphorus, as well as in various types of vitamins.
The crop has relatively few needs, since it has a good tolerance to a lack of water. It needs about 2.5 litres of water a week, but, as the Floridos explain, they are managing to grow strong plants "with a lot less. It is a cactus, so it can handle very high temperatures and dry periods. In this area, we have had temperatures reaching over 40 degrees Celsius and the plants have not been affected at all; however, it is very sensitive to frost and low temperatures," explains Manolo Jiménez, an expert on the plantation.
The body of the plant, which is fleshy and with numerous thorny nodes, generates a number of ramifications which are used to cling to the rocks and, in the case of the crops, to wooden structures. In the Arroyo Coche plantation, where experimental techniques are implemented, the plants are arranged in rows with a series of fans and mechanisms that will prolong the production time beyond the months when the fruit develops naturally (between June and December). Since the crops are inside a greenhouse, germination has to be carried out naturally, although this is the only pitaya plantation that uses the covered technique as part of the experimental procedure.
About a hundred kilos of fruit can be harvested from each plant. Pitaya is usually consumed like any other table fruit, although it is also widely used in cocktails or as a decorative element. It is also usually consumed as a smoothie, since it is quite sweet and 90% of it is water.
In any case, the fruit's medicinal properties are what motivated the Florido family to start producing this exotic fruit. "Its main consumers, who are on the Costa del Sol, had always had to go to the supermarket and relied on exports; our goal is to become a large enough producer to be able to meet the needs of the province."
Publication date: 11/16/2017
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