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Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Longan - 'Dimocarpus longan' - fam: Sapindaceae

Dimocarpus longan, commonly known as the Longan, and is one of the better-known tropical members of the Soapberry family, Sapindaceae, to which the lychee also belongs. Also included in that family are, Rambutan, Guarani, Koran, Pitomba, Spanish lime and the Ackee. 1

Longan is commonly associated with lychee, which is similar in structure but more aromatic in taste. It is native to Southern Asia. The fruit contains a seed which is small, round and hard, and of an enamel-like, lacquered black appearance. The fully ripened, freshly harvested fruit, has a thin, firm, bark-like shell, making the fruit easy to peel by squeezing the pulp out. When the shell has more moisture content and is more tender, the fruit becomes less convenient to shell. The tenderness of the shell varies due to either premature harvest, variety, weather conditions, or transport/storage conditions.

Longans have a fresh distinctive taste and can be used to 'cut the palate' like a sorbet. Their delicious burst of sweet juice, followed by a slightly spicy aftertaste. 2 The fruit is sweet, juicy and succulent in superior agricultural varieties. The seed and the shell are not consumed. Apart from being eaten fresh and raw, longan fruit is also often used in Asian soups, snacks, desserts, and sweet-and-sour foods, either fresh or dried, and sometimes preserved and canned in syrup. The taste is different from lychees; while longan have a drier sweetness, lychees are often messily juicy with a more tropical, sour sweetness.

Dried longan are often used in Chinese cuisine and Chinese sweet dessert soups. In Chinese food therapy and herbal medicine, it is believed to have an effect on relaxation. In contrast with the fresh fruit, which is juicy and white, the flesh of dried longans is dark brown to almost black. 1

It is found commonly throughout most of Asia, primarily in China, Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand. China, the main longan-producing country in the world, produced about 1,300 million tonnes of longan in 2010. Vietnam and Thailand had produced around 600 and 500 million tonnes, respectively. Like Vietnam, Thailand's economy relies heavily on the cultivation and shipments of longan, as well as the lychee. This increase in the production of longan reflects recent interest in exotic fruits in other parts of the world. However, the majority of the demand comes from Asian communities in North America, Europe and Australia. 1

REFERENCES: Wikipedia 1 Australian Tropical Foods 2


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