Produce of the Month: Lychee!
7.2.18–What are these scaly little red fruit? Only one of the most deliciously clear, sweet, and juicy fruit out there! Read on to learn more.
Background + History
Lychees are native to the southern provinces of Fujian and Guangdong in China, where they have been cultivated since at least 1059 AD. Guangdong, in particular, continues to have prolific lychee production with fruit grown throughout the province.
The fruit is a member of the soapberry family, of which it is the only member, and thrives in tropical climates with high summer heat, rainfall, and humidity. Lychee are in season primarily in May and June. China remains the main producer of the fruit, though it is also widely grown throughout Southeast Asia and India, with more recent production in Brazil, Australia, the United States, the Caribbean, and South Africa.
Consumption + Dangers
Fresh lychee are consumed by peeling back the skin to reveal a translucent, fleshy fruit that is white or pinkish. The texture of the flesh can best be compared to a grape, though the sweetness is incomparable. Though lychee can be found in a growing number of grocery stores throughout the United States, it can be most easily obtained in canned form.
In traditional Chinese medicine, lychee is considered a “warm” element that helps to nourish the blood and warm the body and is used to improve digestive systems and bad appetite. However, it is also thought to put the eater at increased risk of ulcers and acne.
Overconsumption of lychees can be toxic and fatal. Naturally occurring toxins found in lychees, especially unripe lychees, can lead to hypoglycemia that causes fever, convulsions, and seizures.
Don’t let this scare you off though! When eaten in moderation, lychees are a deliciously sweet treat.
Lychee and Lime Sorbet (adapted from BBC Good Food)
If you can’t find any fresh lychees, try this recipe using canned lychees for a refreshing summer treat!
– 3 14oz cans lychees in syrup
– 1/3 cup of caster sugar
– egg white
– zest from 2 limes, juice from 1 lime
1. Drain the syrup from two cans of lychees into a small pan. Add the sugar and dissolve over a gentle heat. Bring to the boil for 1 min.
2. Blitz the drained lychees in a food processor until very finely chopped. Pour in the lime juice and syrup with the blade still whirring – don’t worry if the mix isn’t perfectly smooth at this point. Tip into a 1-liter container and freeze for at least 6 hrs until solid.
3. Break up the frozen mix, then return to the bowl of the processor. Tip in the egg white and whizz until thick, pale and smooth. Add zest from 1 lime. Return to the container and freeze again, ideally overnight. Serve in scoops with remaining lychees scattered with a remaining zest.