It wasn’t exactly love at first sight when my sister brought home a plastic bag of small, round, bumpy-encased fruits called lychee. And even after peeling open the reddish-brown shell to discover a translucent-white glossy fruit, I still wasn’t exactly smitten. But at first bite, it was a different story. Its sweet, juiciness was so unique, I didn’t know what to compare it to. It’s one of those tastes you need to experience and savour for yourself. Commonly pronounced LEE chee, (although some say LIE chee), this delicious fruit is not a nut, but a member of the soapberry family. Originating in China close to 2,000 years ago lychee is still most widely grown where it was discovered in the southern provinces of Kwangtung and Fukien. Lychee nut trees are also quite productive in India, the Philippines, and Southern Africa. It takes at least five years for a seedling tree to bear fruit, with some not producing for 25 years. This I know first-hand, as my husband has been painstakingly caring for a lychee plant he started nearly 10 years ago. The little plant has occupied the windowsill, sprouting six green leaves, with not a sign of any fruit to come. In proper, tropical growing conditions, a five-year-old tree, depending on where it’s grown, can produce 500 to 1,000 fruits, while a 20-year-old tree can proliferate ten times that amount. Wow, I would be happy with just one little lychee to make my husband’s efforts seem worthwhile. So for now, we’re stuck picking them from the grocery store. When selecting lychees, choose fruits with dark-red to brown coloured skins, preferably with the stem attached, and avoiding those with blemishes, black spots and splits in the skin. The lychee nut does not ripen after being picked, so they will be ready to eat upon purchase. To prepare, simply snap off the stem and peel. I love lychees best on their own, but they can also be pitted and added to fruit salad, or stuffed with chopped fruit or other sweet fillings. Lychee fruit also makes a refreshing sorbet or sherbet. If fresh lychee isn’t in season, it is available canned in syrup, pickled, jellied or in preserves. Lychee nut keeps well for a week or so in the refrigerator and can also be frozen with the skin on. When thawed, the fruit quickly discolours, so should be consumed as soon as possible. Potassium-rich lychees contain just 125 calories per cup, more Vitamin C than a comparable serving of oranges or lemons, and the fibre of an unpeeled apple. Even though it’s not a nut, there’s no reason to not go nuts over lychees.
You are here: / / / Nuts About Lychee