Lychee fruit (litchi chinensis) is a tropical or sub-tropical fruit, indigenous to China and South East Asia.
Evergreen lychee trees grow to 25 metres or so tall but, when cultivated in orchards for commercial purposes, they are trimmed to about two metres, for convenient harvesting by machine. The sprays of creamy flowers, followed by pinkish-red fruit, hanging from long stems, are an attractive sight.
In Tropical North Queensland, where I live, lychees' appearance in the markets are eagerly awaited as, along with mangosteens, they seem to herald the profusion of gorgeous tropical fruit, such as mangoes, soursops, custard apples and sapote, that is in such profusion as the Wet season approaches.
The fruit is an oval shape, about 5cm long and 4cm wide with a bright pink shell or skin which encloses delicate, but firm, white flesh with a shiny brown seed at its centre. The fruit is delicately perfumed when fresh, its thin rind crisp and easily removed.
Lychees are a little like rambutans or longans in appearance – but are far superior in flavor and texture to my taste buds!
Sometimes lychee fruit is described as lychee nuts, an understandable error. As the picked fruit ages the pink shell turns a dull, rough textured brown and it is this product that is sometimes sold in southern markets as ‘lychee nuts’!
Although usually still edible, in taste and aroma these ‘nuts’ bears little resemblance to the fresh and delicious tropical fruit sourced direct from the grower. Fresh lychees can be frozen in their shells for year-round delight - if you have a large enough freezer! Tinned lychees seem to lose flavour and taste – so – fresh is best and maybe worth a trip to the tropics in November?
Isn’t it a thrill to discover that fruit as delicious as lychees is also good for you?
A polyphenol called oligonal is partly responsible for this happy state of affairs. Readily available sources of oligonal are fresh lychees and green tea, both promoted as having ‘anti-ageing’ properties because of their anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities, courtesy of their oligonal content.
Oligonal helps to improve blood circulation and increase metabolism, hence is useful in fat burning efforts for those wishing to lose weight and for those wishing to improve insulin resistance.
Lychees are a good source of Vitamins C, B complex, E and K ; they also contain minerals such as copper and potassium and are high in fibre.
Lychees are recommended by some as being a cancer treatment but I have not read any controlled studies on this subject – please let me know if you have done so.