Lychee season! Yes, it’s that wonderful time of year when this lusciously sweet favorite summer fruit is readily available. And we’re excited about the local crop we have in our stores.
The lychee is native to Southern China and unofficial Chinese records refer to the fruit as far back as 2000 BC. Hawaii’s first lychee tree arrived from China in 1873 and was planted at the corner of Nuuanu and School Streets on Oahu. Today, more than a dozen varieties of lychee can be found growing in backyards and on local farms statewide where owners and friends alike await the arrival of the unique and special fruit we all love.
Sweet on lychee? Read on!
It’s What’s Inside that Counts: Beneath the tough, rough skin of a lychee, you’ll find a fragrant, whitish flesh with unmatched flavor that not only tastes good, but is good for you too! Packed with vitamin C and other nutrients, lychee has a wealth of health benefits including boosting the immune system, improving digestion, lowering blood pressure, defending the body against viruses, protecting the skin, strengthening bones, and more.
Keep them Fresh: Once ripe, lychee begin to spoil after three to five days at room temperature. To save your precious fruit, store them in the refrigerator where they’ll last for several weeks—if the lychee lover in your house doesn’t get to them first! The red skin will turn dark brown after refrigeration, but the taste won’t be affected.
Frozen Treat: Freeze lychee whole with the skin on. Then thaw and peel them when you want a sweet treat. You won’t even know they’ve been frozen. You can also run frozen lychee under warm water for 15 seconds to soften the skin, then peel, and pop them in your mouth.
All in the Family: Lychee, rambutan and longan are all members of the soapberry family, but they’re easy to tell apart when whole. Lychee are red with a rough skin; rambutan have red-orange bristles; longan have a smooth, green-to-beige skin. Once peeled, they look virtually identical but differ slightly in flavor.
For a Twist: You’ve likely enjoyed lychee in sweet treats like cocktails and desserts and you may have even tried them stuffed with cream cheese. But in Asia, lychee are cooked with pork, shrimp, chicken or duck, the same way we might use orange, mango or pineapple. So don’t be afraid to add them to your favorite savory dish.
Did You Know?
Sometimes referred to as the “Chinese Strawberry,” the lychee is a symbol of love and romance to the Chinese. According to Chinese folklore, one emperor sent his men 500 miles on horseback in search of lychee for his favorite consort!
This elegant cocktail is a refined drink, simple to make and perfect for summer. “Infusing vodka with fresh local lychee will give you delicious lychee flavor in its purest form,” says Foodland Chef Keoni Chang.
2 ounces lychee-infused vodka* (see below)
½ ounce triple sec, optional
1 lychee, peeled, for garnish
Ice with cocktail shaker
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice add lychee-infused vodka and triple sec. Shake until chilled. Garnish with lychee.
*To make Lychee-Infused Vodka:
Combine 2 pounds fresh local lychee (peeled and seeds removed) and 1 bottle (750ml) Ocean Vodka in a clean glass container with a tight lid. Allow to macerate in the refrigerator for one week to allow the flavors to combine.
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