A gentle country road leads through forests and farmlands, past dams and rivers, to the magnificent Amorentia Estate & Nursery in the Politsi Valley, about 20km from Tzaneen. Amorentia is one of the country’s largest exporters of macadamia trees, and propagates avocado trees, azaleas, camellias and other ornamentals, plus bonsais. It’s also the home of Amorentia Sweet Dragon Fruit.
Owner of Amorentia, businessman and farmer Howard Blight, spotted a gap in the market for dragon fruit and started growing them about six years ago. They’re basically a cactus that likes the subtropics and tropics, he says, with the outer flesh resembling the scales of a dragon, and the inside flesh varies in beautiful hues.
Commercial plantings are found in South East Asia (Vietnam exports over 1 million tonnes a year), south and Central America, northern Australia, Hawaii, Israel, southern China and more recently in the US. While less than 50ha of dragon fruit orchards have been established in SA, Blight believes there’s great potential from a climate, cost and nutrition point of view.