by Deborah Madison



These delicate tropical fruits, although still fairly rare, are being seen more frequently than even five years ago, and not only in Chinatowns or Asian markets but at some farmers' markets, too. Their original home is in China and Southeast Asia, but they are grown in other warm, semitropical places around the world, including Florida and now Southern California. Whether you have the redskinned lychee or the brown-skinned longan, a similar fruit classified in a different genus, it's right beneath their brittle husk that you'll find white, translucent fruit, and within that a smooth seed. Fruit and vegetable authority Elizabeth Schneider says, and I agree, that a peeled lychee looks more like a sea creature than a fruit. It has the flawless, slippery texture of a peeled grape, and one understands why the Chinese call them longan, which means "dragon eyes."

Serve fresh lychees well chilled and unpeeled, in a big stemmy pile. Unearthing the fruit from its husk is a pleasing but somewhat sticky task, so you might consider putting bowls of water on the table for people to dip their hands in as they munch their way through a pile of these perfumed fruits.

Canned lychees, by the way, are quite refreshing. A small bowlful makes an instant dessert. Keep a can in the back of the refrigerator so you'll always have something on hand to serve in a pinch. Add the grated zest of a lime to the syrup or a teaspoon of rose water to freshen it.

If you wish to include fresh lychees with other fresh fruit, peel them, then gently push out the seed. Fresh or canned, with syrup, lychees are good with kiwifruit, bananas, pineapple, mangoes, and strawberries.


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This page created August 2010