Whether you spell it lychee or litchi one thing is for certain, these summertime fruits are a favourite in most homes. Litchis originate from the soapberry family. The trees on which they grow can reach over 10m high and are evergreen. They are also easily identifiable with the red bumpy skins and they can be easily peeled.
The fruit itself is a single piece of white juice flesh surrounding a large seed. This makes the fruit a drupe. Litchi’s are quite distinctive in their taste and are a favourite for use in desserts. Check out our top recipes here and here.
Litchis were first found in China around 1060 AD before production began from Burma and India in around 1600. The West Indies started cultivation in 1775 and finally France and the UK in the 19th Century. Litchi’s grow best in warm and humid environments and they, therefore, thrived in Florida and Hawaii. Today litchis are grown around the world.
A single adult litchi tree can produce around 500 fruits while a 20-year-old tree can produce anything from 4000 to 5000 fruits every year. The record for the most number of fruits from a single tree was 1200 tonnes in just one year. Litchis keep well and can be stored for weeks. Fresh or dried, litchis can be used in desserts and salads.
Many companies hope to make the best of the fruit and its super fruit qualities by using them in various supplements and pills. But, quite honestly the very best way to get the most of the benefits of a litchi is to eat the fruit.
Finding the best Litchis
When shopping for fresh lychees, there are numerous characteristics that you should look out for to make sure that you’re getting only the best fruits for you and your family. These include colour, fragrance and fruit hardness. Here are a few tips to help you get the best batch of lychees in the market:
Colour — The shade of lychee skin varies from pink-red to plum. This depends on the variety you’re buying. When choosing, make sure that you don’t get the fruits that still have a green shade as this indicates that they are still unripe.
Fragrance — Fresh lychees exude a distinct lush and sweet fragrance.
Hardness — You can easily determine whether a lychee is ripe by gently pressing on the skin with your thumb. If they’re ripe, the skin would give way a bit but not all the way. Soft lychees are usually already overripe.