Lychee

Lychee

Plural:
Lychees
Family:
Sapindaceae – Soapberry family
Species:
Litchi chinensis

Origin

Lychees come from Southern China and have already been cultivated for about 3000 years in the Far East. As it took the fruit a while to spread outside of Asia, most Europeans had only known this fruit in canned form. Lychees were only first grown on another continent about 25 years ago.

Plant

The evergreen trees grow to about 10 to 12 m high and carry “indehiscent fruits” like nuts. They develop from the blossom-panicles and grow like grapes in clusters with about 30 individual fruits.

Cultivation

These days, lychees are cultivated in numerous semitropical countries. They are of course produced in China and Japan, but also on the Hawaiian Islands, Madagascar and Réunion as well as in South Africa, Kenya, Brazil, Australia and Florida. Lychees do not ripen post harvesting; they are harvested ripe and sent by airfreight. They must be transported in boxes with an airy atmosphere because if put in air tight boxes, they can go mouldy.

Importations

During October, they come from Mauritius and during the months of November and December they are imported from Madagascar. In the colder months from November to February, they come from South Africa. Finally, from September to November, they are imported from Israel.

Fruit

Edible:
The flesh.
Inedible:
The skin and seeds.
Odour:
Similar to roses.
Flavour:
They taste mild, lightly acidic and sweet.
Size:
They are 2.5 to 4 cm long.
Shape:
They are oval to roundish.
Bowl:
Soft, but firm; cerise to auburn; densely covered with tiny, dull prickles.
Flesh:
It looks mother-of-pearl milky-white, tastes very juicy and surrounds a very hard twocm seed.
Ripeness:
The skin is coloured evenly red.
Overripe fruits:
the skin darkly discolours almost to brownish black and the fruits begin to ferment.
Unripe fruits:
they are acidic and tasteless.

Usage

It can be consumed as a raw fruit and may be used in sweet salads. It can also be cooked in Chinese dishes or marinated in punch.

Storage

When ripe, it should be stored for about 3 or 4 days in a cold area. Post maturation: they do not mature after harvesting!