Lychee, Litchi, One Great Fruit

Lychees are an Asian fruit that is juicy, mild, and heavenly. It’s August, so it’s fresh lychee season in the Northern Hemisphere. In the grocery store, they are sold individually or on branches. A good lychee is firm, with a bright, reddish-sienna covering that looks a bit like a geodesic dome.

I use this handy old-fashioned tool to pull the stems of strawberries and to peel lychees.

The fruit is best if it has no bruises, isn’t dusty-looking and the outer shell is intact. To peel: use a thumbnail, and peel from the stem end. Dig your nail into the flesh and peel back. The covering is leather-like and thin and peels easily. It has a large, shiny seed in the center of the fruit that can be removed with a little help. I use a clean old-fashioned can opener (the kind that punches triangular holes in cans)  to pull out the seed. Insert the pointy end around the top of the seed and pull the can opener toward you.

You can plant the seed. They aren’t easy to grow, but who cares? Stick the seeds in a pot, keep them damp and you are good to go. If you live in an area of lots of sun, shield them from the harsh noonday sun. Indoors, put in a sunny window. New leaves are pointy and red, then turn green.

Back to the fruit. The texture is similar to a grape. The flavor? I’ve heard it compared to strawberries, which I don’t find at all. I think more pear and banana. sort of. It’s mild and sweet.

Whole lychee, peeled and still in shell, surrounded by seeds.

How do you eat a lychee? I love just peeling them and eating them fresh. You can tuck them into shaved ice and eat them with crunchy cold ice. You can also put them into fruit salad, mix them into Jell-O, to which you have added a cup of red wine instead of water (not for kids), cook them with stir fry (add them at the last minute, they just need to heat). They also work in a mixed green salad, particularly if you stuff them.

Stuff lychees? Sure. I will admit the canned kind (available at most Asian stores) are easier to stuff, but if you don’t mind a bit of non-perfection, the fresh ones can be stuffed, too, but they will be showing a lot more stuffing than the canned ones, that use power tools to remove the seeds.

So, what to stuff them with? A macadamia nut. Raisins soaked in rum. A pecan half, soaked in red wine. (Not for kids).  A dried cherry. A maraschino cherry (kids love it!)  A sliver of sharp cheese, like jarlsberg. OK, that is the same color, so use a nut with the cheese for color contrast. I wouldn’t do it with a bright-yellow cheese, like cheddar. The taste combination isn’t right.  If you are looking for color, you an stuff them with a smaller red grape, a mandarin orange section, or load them with a pimento-stuffed olive. Drop that in your martini!

Be creative and try new combinations. Then stop by here and leave a comment about your lychee experience. If you wrote about it on your blog, leave a link. Standard warning: this is not an invitation to flog your blog post about any topic, we’re trying to be helpful here. Lychees only, please. Self-congratulatory attempts at ego stroking will be summarily spiked.

Peels, seeds, and lychee with seed exposed.