Collecting seeds of dragonfruit and tree tomato for development projects (Willem Van Cotthem)


Dragonfruits and tree tomatoes can be bought in supermarkets or fruit shops.

Dragonfruit is grown on the cactus Hylocereus :

  • Hylocereus undatus (Red Pitaya) has red-skinned fruit with white flesh, the most common “dragon fruit”.
  • Hylocereus costaricensis (Costa Rica Pitaya, often called H. polyrhizus) has red-skinned fruit with red flesh
  • Hylocereus megalanthus (Yellow Pitaya, formerly in Selenicereus) has yellow-skinned fruit with white flesh.

The fruit contains hundreds of black, shiny little seeds sitting in the pulp.  One can wash out the tender pulp in a fine sieve and dry the seeds on a plate (not on paper).  They usually germinate around two weeks after shallow planting.  Dry seeds can be sent to us (Beeweg 36 – BE9080 ZAFFELARE (Belgium).  We offer free seeds to different development projects in the drylands, thus enabling hungry people to grow fresh fruits in a sustainable way.

Dragonfruit (Hylocereus undatus) growing on climbing cacti - * Dragonfruit plantation - Photo Evariza Farms - 423871_101260033362712_1701936709_n.jpg
Dragonfruit (Hylocereus undatus) growing on climbing cacti – * Dragonfruit plantation – Photo Evariza Farms – 423871_101260033362712_1701936709_n.jpg
Dragonfruit - Photo WVC P1030067
Dragonfruit – Photo WVC P1030067
Cross section of dragonfruit with black seeds in white pulp - Photo WVC P1030059
Cross section of dragonfruit with black seeds in white pulp – Photo WVC P1030059
Dragonfruit's shiny black seeds in rests of whitish pulp - Photo WVC - P1030111
Dragonfruit’s shiny black seeds in rests of whitish pulp – Photo WVC – P1030111
Germination of dragonfruit seeds - Photo WVC - P1030133
Germination of dragonfruit seeds – Photo WVC – P1030133
Dragonfruit seedlings on household paper - Photo WVC - P1030129
Dragonfruit seedlings on household paper – Photo WVC – P1030129

The tree tomato grows on a Cyphomandra betacea tree.

Oval fruits only look like tomatoes.  The juicy orange pulp with purply red seeds can be washed out in a fine sieve by squeezing the pulp under running tap water.  The dark colour of the seeds (anthocyanins) disappears gradually until they are brownish.  Seeds can be dried on a plate (not on a paper).  Seedlings develop quite easily in humid potting soil.

Dry seeds sent to us (see address above) are offered for free to development projects in the drylands, where these tree tomatoes bring fresh food full of vitamins to the local people.  Thus, anyone can contribute to alleviate hunger and malnutrition in this world.

Tree tomato (Cyphomandra betacea), an interesting fruit to be grown at the largest scale in the drylands. The tree should be incorporated in reforestation programs. - 2009-12-30 CYPHOMANDRA BETACEA Photo WVC - P1030139.jpg
Tree tomato (Cyphomandra betacea), an interesting fruit to be grown at the largest scale in the drylands. The tree should be incorporated in reforestation programs. – 2009-12-30 CYPHOMANDRA BETACEA Photo WVC – P1030139.jpg
Cross-section of tree tomato with orange flesh (juicy pulp) and dark red seeds - 2009-12-30 CYPHOMANDRA P1030143
Cross-section of tree tomato with orange flesh (juicy pulp) and dark red seeds – 2009-12-30 CYPHOMANDRA Photo WVC – P1030143
Seeds of tree tomato sit on their small stalk - 2009-12-30 CYPHOMANDRA P1030147
Seeds of tree tomato sit on their small stalk – 2009-12-30 CYPHOMANDRA Photo WVC – P1030147
When purplish red anthocyanins are washed out the seeds turn brownish - 2009-12-30 CYPHOMANDRA P1030151
When purplish red anthocyanins are washed out the seeds turn brownish – 2009-12-30 CYPHOMANDRA Photo WVC – P1030151
All contributions of dragonfruit seeds and tree tomato seeds are most welcome.  In the name of all the people affected by drought and desertification, suffering from malnutrition, hunger and poverty : Sincere thanks !

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.