The lychee, also known as litchi, lichi, lichee, laichi, leechee or lychee belongs to the soapberry family, Sapindaceae.It is a tropical fruit that originated in South China. In Chinese the word "Lee Chee" means, "Gift for a joyful life."
The is approximately 2 inches in size, oval to round in shape and has a bumpy red skin. The fruit has a unique flavor and an acid sweet taste. The skin has to be peeled and the flesh is whitie or pinkish, juicy, transparent and glossy. Its texture is reminiscent of a grape but the taste is quite different.
The lychee is native to the provinces of Kwangtung and Fukien in southern China, where it grows along the rivers and the coast. It is mentioned often in Chinese literature. The the earliest known record was in 1059 A.D. In the 18th Century, it was carried to India.
A cupful of lychee fruit has only 125 calories. Lychees have a lot of Vitamin C, in fact, more than than oranges or lemons. They also contain plenty of potassium and have a lot of dietary fiber. Eating lychees everyday helps prevent cancer.
If consumed in reasonable amounts every day, the lychee is said to provide relieve from coughing and to have a positive effect on tumors and enlarged glands. However, the Chinese believe that consuming too many raw lychees can cause fever and bleeding from the nose.
In China, the seeds are believed to have an analgesic effect and are given in neuralgia and orchitis. A tea made with the peel of the fruit is administered during smallpox to overcome the eruptions and also for diarrhea. In India as well, lychee seeds are administered for intestinal troubles and to relieve neuralgic pains. A decoctions made by boiling the root, bark and flowers is used for gargling to alleviate ailments of the throat.
Buying and storing
Always look for fruit that has no blemishes and looks bright red and fresh. The skin is leathery but should not be dull or dry. It should be pliable. Avoid lychess that smell fermented or are cracked or leaking. Buy fruit which is ripe and sweet as lychees do not ripen once they are picked.
Place the lychees under refrigeration immediately. Fresh lychees should be wrapped in a paper napkin and placed in the refrigerator for up to one week. Lychees have to be consumed quickly as they begin to ferment once they are ripe.
Lychees can be frozen for later use. Frozen lychees are also very delicious. Freeze and then store them in a ziplock bag. Lychees are also sold in the canned form. The fruit can also be dried and looks and tastes a lot like a raisin.
- Lychees taste best when they are eaten fresh. They can also be added to fruit salads.
- Stuff lychees with cottage cheese and serve topped with dressing.
- The fruit tastes delicious when served with ice cream or whipped cream.
- Place halved lychees on top of steak during the last twenty minutes of grilling.
- Add pureed lychees are added to ice cream mix and freeze.
- Lychees sherbet tastes delicius and is very refreshing.
- Freeze lychees and eat later. They taste like sorbet.
- Lychee wine is a favourite with many people popular.
In China, the lychee, is considered a symbol of romance and love.
Lady Yang Kuei Fei, the concubine of the last emperor of the T'ang dynasty, Hsuan Tsung (A.D. 712-756) had a passion for the lychee fruit. The emperor had them brought from Canton in Southern China to his palace in the North which was a distance of 600 miles, in order to woo her. He arranged for guards mounted on fast horses to convey the lychees his concubine would get the lychees while they were still fresh.