Lychee are one of the most popular fruits of SE Asia and one of the most flavoursome fruit in the world. The lychee fruit is a round-heart shape and can be as big as a golf ball. The skin is quite thin and slightly brittle, and can range in texture from rough to slightly spiky, and in colour from pale green to pale pink to deep red.
The skin of a lychee can be peeled off quite easily, with practice, leaving the juicy, white, slightly translucent fruit to be held by the short stem. Each fruit has an elongated, shiny brown stone inside which varies in proportion to the flesh. This is often a key determinant of quality, whereby varieties and locations producing fruit with small stones are much prized.
The fruit has an exceptionally attractive aroma, and, on eating, this translates into a sumptuous, succulent, perfumed deliciousness. Lychee are renowned as the type of fruit that, once started, cannot be left. Such is the demand for good quality lychee that prices tend to be very high for the best: hence, it is a rarity to see the plump, small-stoned fruit, often from China, in stores in the UK.
Origin: Provinces Guangdong and Fujian, SE China.
Family: Sapindaceae (also contains longan and rambutan).
Names: Litchi chinensis; Lychee; Litchi.
Varieties: Seen in UK: Mauritius; Red MacLean; Kom; Fei Chi Siu.
Grown In: China, Thailand, Vietnam; Australia; South Africa; Mozambique; Swaziland; Madagascar; Mexico; USA; Israel.
Why Eat Lychee: Lychee are one of the best tasting fruits in the world. The succulent, juicy, white flesh is full of tropical, exotic flavour and the perfumed aroma is intoxicating.
Lychee are very high in vitamin C.
Quality & Buying: Lychee should look fresh and plump, and without signs of bruise, softness, juice or mould growth. Colouration of the skin does not give indication of internal eating quality and varies with variety, some having a light pink or red hue, and others remaining with an unexciting greenish peel. Sea-freighted lychee often have a slightly dull appearance due to sulphur fumigation to reduce post-harvest diseases.
Lychee can be refrigerated for 2-3 days, but must be warmed to room temperature before consumption (otherwise the flavour is muted, which would be a pity!).
Nutrition (1 cup serving = 190g):
- Very high vitamin C: 226% dv (cell health: skin, blood vessel, bone, cartilage; wound healing)
- High riboflavin: 7% dv (help the body build red blood cells; support cellular functions that provide energy, including the breakdown of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates)
- Low calories: 6% dv (66kcal/100g)
- Medium Glycaemic Load: 10 (less than 10 = low effect on blood sugars)
- Sugars: 15% of lychee are sugar carbohydrates
(Daily Value (dv) % of a 2000 kcal per day diet from 1 cup (190g) of lychee)(Source: USDA SR-21)
Harvest & Availability: On sale in UK:
- January: South Africa, Madagascar
- February: South Africa, Madagascar
- May: Mexico
- June: Mexico, China
- September: Israel
- December: South Africa, Madagascar
Rare Fruit Council of Australia – Lychee
©Good Fruit Guide 2017. Information and data published on www.goodfruitguide.co.uk must not be reproduced or copied without permission of the editor. Recommendations on fruit varieties and types with the very best taste are personal to the editor of Good Fruit Guide, and do not attempt to be exhaustive or supported by verifiable consumer research. The highlighting of fruit with the very best taste in the opinion of the editor is not intended as a judgement on the taste of varieties and types of fruit not mentioned.