December 31, 2014
Lychees are a tropical and subtropical fruit native to Guangdong and Fujian [Chinese provinces] – now they are cultivated in many parts of the world [Brazil, South-East Asia, and more recently in California, Hawaii, Texas, subtropical regions of South Africa and Israel].
At first glance lychees look like strawberries with alligator skin – that’s why they are sometimes called ‘alligator strawberries’. The fruits are up to 5cm long and 4cm wide and vary in shape from round to ovoid to heart-shaped. The thin, tough skin is green when immature, ripening to a pink-red, roughly textured skin that is inedible but easily removed. Strip a lychee down and you will be rewarded with a fragrant, sweet flavored ‘eyeball’ with a floral smell. The translucent, white flesh surrounds one glossy, dark brown, nut-like [inedible] seed.
Lychees are usually in season from May to September with the high season being June and July.
SHOPPING + STORAGE
Select those which are fresh looking [surprise] – with a firm, pinkish skin – without blemishes – ideally with the stem still attached. The fruits usually do not ripen after harvesting – they deteriorate quickly and the skin turns brown and dry when left out. If the fruit tastes bitter or sour, it is not ripe.
Avoid lychees that are cracked, leaking, or smell fermented.
The outer leathery skin has a thin inner membrane [that also needs to be removed before eating] – as the fruit ages the skin and inner membrane lose water and become tougher, fusing together. If the skin comes off easily with the inner membrane – the storage time is greatly shortened.
The perfume-like flavor of the fruits is lost in the process of canning – so try to get your hands on fresh fruit.
Stored in the fridge [in a plastic bag] they will keep fresh for up to 10 days. They will begin to ferment as they age, so use them quickly. The bright red might turn a little brownish – that won’t affect the taste.
You may freeze them [with the skin] for longer preservation. Try defrosting just the skin [under hot water – so it peels easier] and snack the frozen fruit right of the pit.
If you know how to do it you may even dry them [with the rind intact]. Dried lychee are called ‘lychee nuts’.
Lychees are best eaten right out of hand. Don’t peel them too far in advance. If the litchi is very fresh, you’ll need to gently peel away the skin and inner membrane much like peeling an orange. If the lychees have been stored for awhile, the skin and membrane will peel away easily, usually in whole halves after scoring around the seed.
You may use them:
raw – in fruit salads [sometimes vegetable or chicken salads as a sweet touch] or in yoghurt
bake and cooked – in chutneys, sweet-and-sour sauces or dessert
frozen – for ice cream
juiced – pure or in cocktails, iced tea, lemonades,…
Lychees are high in Vitamin C. Snacking only 9 of these fruits would supply an adult’s daily recommended Vitamin C requirement [on average]. For the rest it supplies little nutrients and are low in saturated fat and sodium. Most of the energy in a lychee is in the form of carbohydrate [sugar] – about half being fructose and half glucose.
Nutritional value per 100g [% of Daily Value]