Lychee is also known as Litchi botanically and is of the soapberry family, Sapindaceae of the genus Litchi. Lychee is a large tropical and evergreen tree that bears small pink fruits with a rough texture on the outer skin.
It is native to the Guangdong and Fujian regions of China and is most popular in China, India, the rest of Southeast Asia and South Africa.
The tree can grow up to 28 meters tall with fruits that take between three to four months to mature depending on the climate and cultivar. The fruits themselves can be anything from round or oval to heart-shaped. They can reach about five centimeters long an four centimeters wide.
Immature fruits are green in color and turn pink to red when ripe. After harvest, the skin tends to turn brown and hard. The outer skin which is inedible may be anything from smooth to rough with sharp, protruding spines.
The inner flesh surrounds a large dark brown inedible seed. The flesh is pale white and translucent and bears a fragrant smell while it is sweet to taste.
The lychee can be purchased in stores all year round in various forms including, fresh, dried, or processed frozen or canned. The fruit’s outer skin dries at room temperature and keeps about two to three days. It may, therefore, be necessary to moisten them occasionally.
The fruits can keep much longer in a refrigerator for well over a month.
Preparation of Lychee for Consumption
Lychee should be separated from the stalk and washed in cool running water. Gently hold the fruit with one hand and peel away the opposite end with your other hand’s fingers. The peeling of lychees is similar to citrus fruits.
Be careful not to apply too much pressure as this will squirt the juice out of the delicate flesh.
This fruit is generally eaten as a snack or can be sliced and added to fruit salads. It is also prepared into a refreshing juice for commercial purposes or can be juiced in a food processor to extract the juice in the home setting.
Lychee is also used to make jam, jelly, sauce, sorbet and syrup preparations.
Lychee comes with just 66 calories per 100 grams. It contains no cholesterol or saturated fats. It is a decent source of vitamins and minerals.
Like most fruits it is a very rich source of vitamin C. It is a good source of B-complex vitamins such as Pyridoxine, Riboflavin, Folates, and Niacin.
It is also a good source of Potassium, Copper, and Iron. It also contains good amounts of Magnesium, Manganese, and Phosphorus.