Lychee, Litchi, Leechee, Lichee, Lichi
June and July
Mexico and the United States, China
50° F. Do not chill.
The lychee is the most renowned of a group of edible fruits of the soapberry family, Sapindaceae. It is botanically designated Litchi chinensis Sonn. (Nephelium litchi Cambess). The lychee comes with either a brown or red outer skin. The skin is not edible and must be removed to reveal the milky white flesh underneath. The meat is like that of a peeled grape with a single dark seed in the middle that is not for eating. They can be enjoyed fresh as they work well with many soft fruits, or gently cooked to produce wonderful sauces. High in vitamin C.
A major early Chinese historical reference to lychees was made in the Tang Dynasty, when it was the favourite fruit of Emperor Li Longji (Xuanzong)'s favoured concubine Yang Yuhuan (Yang Guifei).
There is a Cantonese saying: "one lychee = three torches of fire"(一啖荔枝三把火). It refers to the extreme Yang property of the fruit. Over-consumption of lychees is reported to lead to dried lips and nosebleeds in some people, and may trigger the formation of pimples and mouth ulcers.
Lychees are most relished fresh, out-of-hand. Peeled and pitted, they are commonly added to fruit cups and fruit salads. Lychees stuffed with cottage cheese are served as salad topped with dressing and pecans. Or the fruit may be stuffed with a blend of cream cheese and mayonnaise, or stuffed with pecan meats, and garnished with whipped cream. Sliced lychees, congealed in lime gelatin, are served on lettuce with whipped cream or mayonnaise. The fruits may be layered with pistachio ice cream and whipped cream in parfait glasses, as dessert. Halved lychees have been placed on top of ham during the last hour of baking, or grilled on top of steak. Pureed lychees are added to ice cream mix. Sherbet is made by extracting the juice from fresh, seeded lychees and adding it to a mixture of prepared plain gelatin, hot milk, light cream, sugar and a little lemon juice, and freezing.
Peeled, seeded lychees are canned in sugar sirup in India and China and have been exported from China for many years. Browning, or pink discoloration, of the flesh is prevented by the addition of 4% tartaric acid solution, or by using 30� Brix sirup containing 0.1% to 0.15% citric acid to achieve a pH of about 4.5, processing for a maximum of 10 minutes in boiling water, and chilling immediately.
The lychee is native to low elevations of the provinces of Kwangtung and Fukien in southern China, where it flourishes especially along rivers and near the seacoast. It has a long and illustrious history having been praised and pictured in Chinese literature from the earliest known record in 1059 A.D. Cultivation spread over the years through neighboring areas of southeastern Asia and offshore islands. Late in the 17th Century, it was carried to Burma and, 100 years later, to India. It arrived in the West Indies in 1775, was being planted in greenhouses in England and France early in the 19th Century, and Europeans took it to the East Indies. It reached Hawaii in 1873, and Florida in 1883, and was conveyed from Florida to California in 1897. It first fruited at Santa Barbara in 1914.