Sweet, juicy and strikingly coloured, they grow on trees, bushes or vines, and are an excellent alternative to artificial sweets. We are lucky to have a wide selection of fruits to choose from, some of the many resources kindly provided to us by nature. There are thousands of varieties of fruit trees grown worldwide, in different climates. One of my favourite ones, litchi chinensis is a tropical and subtropical fruit tree originating in China. It is cultivated in many parts of the world and widely exported. It is prized for its tasty fruits, called lychee or litchi.
Lychee's appearance is contrasting. Its rough, uneven, relatively hard, but easy to peel off shell protects a delicate, translucent, light coloured pulp, characterised by pleasantly smooth texture, reminiscent of that of ice apple. A glossy brown, inedible seed can be found inside the juicy flesh. The taste is sweet and subtle, as is the fragrance. When selecting fresh fruits, look for pinkish-brown ones without cracks. If they are dark or deep brown, they may be dried out inside, so stick to the lighter shades. Keep in mind that green lychees are sour. Use your hands to check the weight, the heavier the fruit, the more juicy it is!
Apart from being delicious, lychee has beneficial effects on health. It contains less than 70 calories per 100 grams (6 per fruit on average) and has no saturated fats. It's a great source of B-complex vitamins such as niacin, thiamin and folates, essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates, converting food to energy, and helpful in improving physical vitality. This tasty fruit also contains a lot of vitamin C! Hundred grams equal to almost 120% of daily recommended value. In addition, lychee provides a good amount of potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and copper. Consumption of lychees helps to slow down skin aging. It also strengthens the bones, controls the blood pressure and aids digestion. Vitamins and minerals found in juicy litchi fruits help us fight infections, disease-causing free radicals and promote healing. And, there's more good news. Saccharomyces boulardii, probiotic microorganism that naturally supports gut health, was first isolated from ... Yes, you guessed it, litchi!
Not surprisingly, this super tasty fruit is a common ingredient in various creative recipes including ice-cream, cakes, mousse, alcoholic cocktails, liqueur, mocktails and stir fry. Michelin starred chefs use it, so why don't you get inspired and whip up some heavenly dishes! Peeled fruits need to be refrigerated, but they won't stay fresh for long. Unpeeled lychees, sealed in plastic bags can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks. Low temperature causes brown discoloration on the outer surface of the fruit, but there is no reason to be alarmed as the flesh remains unaffected. Alternatively, you can freeze them. Don't peel the fruits, just place inside the zip lock bags and put inside your freezer. They can be stored like that for up to a year. You can use frozen fruits for cooking and juicing or defrost them. If lychees are not cultivated in the part of the world you live in, you are likely to find it on supermarket shelves, locked safely inside the cans, either in juice or syrup. You may also be able to find dried litchi. Enjoy it, in any form!