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Taste Comparison: Dragon Fruit vs Peruvian Apple Cactus

 

The exotic Dragon Fruit (Hylocereus spp) and Peruvian Apple Cactus (Cereus Peruvianus) both produce delicious fruit.  But which is better and how are they different?

This quick article is a side by side comparison of the similarities and differences of these two unique but tasty treats.  My friend Jessie has never tried either fruit and as an added bonus she has graciously volunteered to be an objective taste tester (see tasting video further below in the article).

Meet my friend Jessie, our taste tester.

Meet my friend Jessie, our taste tester.

Differences: (between Dragon Fruit and Peruvian Apple Cactus)

Appearance:

  • Dragon Fruit look amazing with its numerous prehistoric looking wings extending from the surface while Apple Cactus have a smooth skin and are generally smaller in size.  When ripe, Dragon fruit turn a deep red color. Apple Cactus skin on the other hand turn more of a bright reddish pink or orange when ripe.
Excited first impression

Excited first impression; seeing both fruit for the first time.

 

  • Different varieties of dragon fruit flesh can range in color from white, pink, to psychedelic deep purple with black speckles. However, as far as I am aware, Apple Cactus flesh is only white with black specks.
Varieties of Dragon Fruit

Red and white-pinkish varieties of dragon fruit from the backyard. My daughters hand doing a photobomb to the right and ruler on the bottom for more objective measurements

 

Texture:

  • Dragon Fruit have a delightfully smooth but firm texture that is also amazingly juicy and melting.  Apple Cactus on the other hand has a nearly crystalline texture similar to shaved ice that is also miraculously melting.
Cereus Peruvianus texture

The Cereus Peruvianus fruit texture is amazingly dense and fluffy as well as nearly crystalline.

Flavor:

  • Although each variety of dragon fruit taste subtly different, they all have a unique tropical fruity flavor. Apple cactus on the other hand have a more mild flavor that is reminiscent of sugarcane.

 

Plants:

  • Dragon Fruit Cactus are epiphytic tropical vines… So yea, these plants grow on the support of other trees… weird right.  Cereus Peruvianus on the other hand looks more like a typical columnar cactus.
Growing branch fallen because supporting rope broke before roots could take hold.

Growing branch fallen because supporting rope broke before air-roots could take hold.

 

  • Dragon fruit thrive in a tropical-to subtropical jungle like environment.   Cereus spp also require more water than a typical cactus, and thrive in frost free open-forest like conditions.
So many freeking buds on this cereus cactus. This is also an Aug 2015 follow up image of the same cactus above

Numerous flower buds on this Cereus peruvianus cactus.

 

 

Similarities: (between Dragon Fruit and Peruvian Apple Cactus)

 

Appearance:

  • Both fruit have relatively thick skin that peals away from the flesh easily.
  • The flesh of both fruit is nearly uniform in color and speckled with numerous small black seeds.
Cut Cereus fruit

The peel of the Apple Cactus fruit often just falls away after being cut open

Texture:

  • The delightfully dense texture of both the Dragon Fruit and Peruvian Apple Cactus seem to defy physics. They are initially firm but then quickly melting and amazingly juicy.
Cut up red Dragon Fruit

Tasty (Hylocereus spp) Dragon Fruit

Flavor:

  • Both fruit are mildly sweet and not at all sour or tart.

 

Plants:

  • Both Hylocereus spp and Cereus peruvianus are cacti, and both should not be treated like your average cactus.  Although both of these plants have thorns, the barbs are few and small. There are no thorns on the fruit.  Both plants have similar appearing huge beautiful flowers that only bloom at night… and the flowers only last one day before wilting.
Night time Dragon fruit flowers

Dragon Fruit Flowers bloom at night

 

Cereus in full nighttime bloom

Cereus Peruvianus in full nighttime bloom

Video comparison:

Below is a video recording of a side by side comparison of Dragon Fruit (Hylocereus spp) and Peruvian Apple Cactus (Cereus Peruvianus). My great friend Jessie has volunteered as an objective taste tester and has  never tried either fruit before the video.

 

 

Growing info: 

For detailed info on how to grow these awesome plants/fruit, just follow the links below to some of my earlier articles:

How to get dragon fruit flowers

How to get Your Dragon Fruit Cactus to Fruit

Cereus Peruvianus: Care & cultivation of this very tasty cactus

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Thomas Osborne, MD

Dr. Osborne is a Harvard trained Radiologist and Neuroradiologist who loves to share his insight about medicine and gardening.

12 comments

  1. Nice post. Just to mention, the red fleshed one gives most people pink pee. The white one not. The white fleshed is my favorite.

  2. Loved this even though I will never be able to raise either fruit in my backyard, it was nice to see them, learn about them and think about driving west to raid someone’s succulents and air plants!

  3. Thanks for the info! I just snagged a couple cuttings from someone’s pruning. This will help!

  4. Oh my gosh, such helpful info on this site!

    I’m newly obsessed with Dragon Fruit. I am growing 4 kinds (Bien Hoa Red/American Beauty, Sugar Dragon, Sin Espinas, and “unknown”). A neighbor nearby has this crazy giant multi-armed cactus in their front yard, fruiting and flowering feverishly at the moment. Definitely not your usual suspect for an urban garden. They told me it’s dragon fruit.

    I said, no it must be a prickly pear. When they said no really, it’s not! They said the fruit is white on the inside with black seeds I was totally stumped. There is absolutely nothing–apart from dragon fruit–answering to that description. Or so I thought!! You solved the mystery!

    I’m thinking the Peruvian Apple/Cereus absolutely must be related to Dragon Fruit, there are so many similarities: the look of the fruit interior, the look of the flower, the night-blooming habit of the flower, even the shape of the stalks.

    Epiphilum (sp?) seems to be another cousin to Peruvian Apple and to Dragon Fruit.

    Anyway, thank you for the interesting compare and contrast info on the P. Apple and the Dragon Fruit. Really great info, appreciate it so much. 🙂

  5. Hello,
    Thanks for generously sharing your gardening knowledge. I would like to buy an apple cactus cutting here in San Diego. Could you please let me know where I might be able to buy one?
    Thanks
    Kay

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