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Friday, May 5, 2017

The Lychee - 'Litchi chinensis' - fam: Sapindaceae

The Lychee, Litchi chinensis, is the sole member of the genus Litchi in the Soapberry family, Sapindaceae.

Lychees are extensively grown in China, India, Thailand, Vietnam and the rest of tropical Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, and more recently in South Africa, Brazil, the Caribbean, Australia and the United States.

It is a tropical tree native to the Guangdong and Fujian provinces of China, where cultivation is documented from 1059 AD. China is the main producer of lychees, followed by India, other countries in Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and South Africa.

A tall evergreen tree, the lychee bears small fleshy fruits. The outside of the fruit is pink-red, roughly textured and inedible, covering sweet flesh eaten in many different dessert dishes. Since the perfume-like flavor is lost in the process of canning, the fruit is usually eaten fresh 1.

The fruit are small, about 3.8cm in diameter, oval to round, depending on the variety. They have a leathery, scaly, skin, ranging from pink to red. The flesh is semi-translucent, firm and jelly-like. The flesh is wrapped around a shiny inedible brown seed. They are tangy, sweet and juicy.

Choose fruit with skin as pink, or red, as possible. Greenish fruit is under-ripe, whilst brown fruit is over ripe. Fresh fruit can be kept in refrigerator wrapped in plastic for five to seven days and may be kept at room temperature for two or three days. Lychees can be frozen for up to six months. Lychees do NOT ripen after picking.

Lychees are best eaten fresh. Simply peel with fingers, then nibble or suck the flesh from the seed. They make a refreshing end to a meal. Lychees can be pitted, and added to fruit salads. They are also used in sweet and sour dishes and salads. They make a good accompaniment to pork and duck and can be dried within their shells. 2

Note: In 1962, it was found that lychee seeds contained methylenecyclopropylglycine (MCPG), a homologue of hypoglycin A, which caused hypoglycemia in animal studies. Since the end of the 1990s, unexplained outbreaks of encephalopathy occurred, appearing to affect only children in India and northern Vietnam (where it was called Ac Mong encephalitis after the Vietnamese word for nightmare) during the lychee harvest season from May to June. 1 See : This post.

REFERENCES: Wikipedia 1 Australian Tropical Foods 2


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