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Lychee Litchi chinensis

Photo Credit: Ian Maguire

Lychee fruits look like leathery strawberries on the outside, but on the inside are more like grapes in their appearance, and in their texture. The flavor of the lychee is like a combination of grapes and strawberries, and the fruit is extremely fragrant. Use lychees in many of the same dishes that you use grapes, such as fruit salads and chicken salads. Lychees also make a wonderful sorbet.



Below are a few tips to help you enjoy your lychees at their best!

Selecting fruit

Lychees are harvested from the tree fully ripe, and may or may not have the stems attached.  They are mostly red with hints of brown or yellow or purple. Fruit sent from our growers will be of top quality and ready to eat upon arrival. In the market, look for fruit that with few or no spots, and have a sweet fragrance, and avoid fruit that are cracked or greenish.


Ripening

Lychees are picked from the tree when they are fully ripe and will not ripen any further, just like cherries, oranges and grapes.


Handling

Lychees must be peeled to eat. Simply break the leathery skin with your fingernail or a knife, and peel it off. There is also a very thin membrane that sometimes sticks to the flesh – just pull that off if that happens. Now you can pop the lychee in your mouth or cut the fruit in half with a knife. Most lychees have a seed inside, so either spit it out or remove it with a knife.


Storage

Store lychees in the refrigerator in a plastic bag or container that is slightly open. The small opening will help to reduce mold and condensation. The skin will turn brown and harden a bit, but this will not affect the flavor of the flesh.  The fruit will keep for up to two weeks this way.

Lychees also freeze very well.  Simply place the fruit in a plastic bag or container and place in the freezer. Some people will peel the fruit before they freeze it, but it is not necessary. The fruit will keep about a year in the freezer.


Counts and Weights

There are about 15-18 lychees to a pound.


Nutrition

One cup of fresh lychee fruit has 125 calories, more of the antioxidant Vitamin C than oranges or lemons, about as much dietary fiber as an apple with the skin on and is loaded with potassium.

Click here for additional nutritional information.


Recipes

Lychees have been called the King of Fruits, and once you have tasted one, you will understand why.  They go great:

  • in fruit salads and desserts
  • added to chicken salad and stir fries.
  • attached with toothpicks to a baked ham
  • in sorbets or ice creams

Below are several recipes for you to try.


Chicken, Lychee and Carambola  Stir Fry

Cut two chicken breasts into small pieces, and sauté in a small amount of oil. After the chicken has cooked 2-3 minutes, add to the pan 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, about 1 cup of lychees (peel and seeds removed), 1 cup of sliced star fruit, 1 tsp. green ginger, and 3 Tbsp. sherry. When the chicken is fully cooked (another 2-3 minutes), add 1 Tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in a little water to the cooking liquid to thicken it. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve on serve on green vegetables like bok choy, or rice.

Watermelon and Lychee Salad with Frisee

By Chef Allen, Aventura, FL

This is a light, exotic, tangy, summery salad.  To prepare the lychees, simply crack the leathery shells, and the skin will peel off easily.  Black sesame seeds are readily available in Oriental markets.

Ingredients:

2 c. Watermelon

2 dz. Florida lychees (peeled)

1 bunch frisee

2 T. frsh tarragon

¼ c. fresh orange juice

½ c. extra virgon olie oil

1 t. kosher salt

1 t. coarse black pepper

2 t. black sesame seeds

To prepare the salad:   Cut the watermelon into large cubes 1 inch by 1 inch. Combine the watermelon, lychees, and frisee. Toss them with a vinaigrette made by whisking together the tarragon, orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Finish the salad with black sesame seeds.