Some say that the longan fruit is an acquired taste, perhaps because of its mild flavour and generally subdued personality, compared with its cousins, lychees and rambutans.
With dark green leaves and abundant fruit, this attractive fruit tree (Dimocarpus longan) grows to a medium size so may be suited to suburban backyards. It prefers a warm and humid climate and grows well in tropical or sub-tropical regions in Australia.
Of the sapindaceae dynasty, longans are related to other, perhaps better known, family members, such as the delicious lychee and wildly dramatic looking rambutan.
Smaller than either of these fruits, its name apparently means ‘dragon’s eye’ in the country of its origin, Southern China, because of the eye-like appearance of the small round black seed, seen through white, translucent flesh.
Not as robust in flavour as its cousin, the lychee, the longan’s taste is more subtle and most attractive, its texture crisp and juicy. Usually available in North Queensland local markets, longan fruit follows the rather short lychee season. Covered by a thin, crisp shell, longans are easy to open and enjoy.
Indigenous to China, longan fruit grows happily in North Queensland. It is likely that the fruit was introduced to Australia during the Gold Rush, when many Chinese immigrants joined that endeavour, but ended up as shop keepers and gardeners, supporting the itinerant miners and settlers.
Sometimes dried, it is best known by its bunches of long-stemmed fresh fruit.
See what this farmer is achieving!
High in antioxidants such as Vitamin C and minerals such as copper, manganese, magnesium and iron, longans are low in calories as well as tasting delicious!
Used traditionally in Chinese medicine to boost the immune system, decrease stress and improve skin conditions, it seems that much faith is held for their health benefits, although there appear to be few clinical trials undertaken to date.
But really, who cares? They are low in calories and delicious! I can't wait for them to be in season again...
Here's a short video about how to grow longan trees in Australia courtesy of Daley's Nursery
You may not be ready to grow trees yet but perhaps, if you haven't already done so, you may be ready for a new taste experience?