With sweet, delectable fruit inside a hard shell, lychee are the "M&Ms" of the fruit world. Lychee flesh has a texture reminiscent of fresh aloe or a green grape, with a translucent white color. The crisp, perfumey fruit is perfect for snacking, martinis, or delicate desserts.
Because of their short growing season, these precious fruits are extremely difficult to come by. For all but a few weeks of the year, the only way to enjoy a fresh lychee is in their canned form.
Hey, we’ll take a lychee any way we can. But when you get to experience the real, fresh thing, you’ll take on a whole new appreciation for rare and delicate lychee fruit.
Lychee (Litchi chinensis), sometimes called litchi, are small tropical fruits with a waxy, bold pink skin and jelly-like flesh. The translucent white flesh of lychee has the texture of a juicy, dense grape. Their flavor is light and crisp like watermelon, yet sweet and juicy like a strawberry. There’s a hint of spring flowers in lychee’s distinct flavor that makes it a favorite around the world.
Ranging in size from a walnut to a golf ball, lychees taste clean and sweet, like a crisp, watery berry. The peel resembles a leathery raspberry, and while very pretty, is not edible. At the center of each lychee is a brown, inedible pit. These large seeds are known to be toxic, so it’s best to eat around them or spit them out.
Lychee are often compared to rambutan and longan fruits. All three possess a rind that feels like a pliable, waxy shell, with soft inner fruit that pops right out. Rambutan, longan and lychee fruits’ flesh are all a translucent yet creamy white color with a juicy, grape-like texture. In the center of their fruits is a hard, inedible brown pit. In taste, lychee is less sweet and creamy than rambutan, and not nearly as sour as longan. Lychee is considered to have the crispest flavor and texture of the three fruits.
Lychee fruits are a versatile ingredient in both sweet and savory recipes. Raw lychee is delicious as a sweet snack, tossed into salads or as a special yogurt topping. These delicate fruits are perfect for light and refreshing beverages and cocktails as well.
Because lychees are harvested when ripe, you’ll not have to worry about how to tell when they’re ready to eat. If you have lychee, they’re ripe enough to eat! Remember, lychees have a short shelf life, so storing them in the fridge will keep them fresher for longer. Eat them within one week, or freeze them as soon as possible to enjoy them for up to three months.
Lychee fruits are native to an area of the world spanning from southeastern China, through Vietnam to Malaysia. Today, lychee fruits are grown and cultivated throughout the world, including India and southeast Asia, Israel, Australia, the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean and Brazil.
Lychee season starts strong in late May and June, and runs through September. FruitStand’s lychee shipments come from Lake Placid Fruit & Nut Grove in Lake Placid, Florida. Here, the lychee season is just three short weeks in late May, so get ‘em while you can!