Chinese lychee, an exotic fruit that smells like roses. Get to know all its advantages and attractions!

Lychee is one of those fruits with an irresistible sweet taste that is very easy to fall for!

What is important to know about him?

How does it taste?

How is it different from rambutan or longan?

In this article, you will learn about the health benefits of eating it, where you can use it in the kitchen, and lots of other tips.

What exactly is a lychee?

These are delicious fruits that come originally from China. These small fruits grow on tall evergreen trees. The oval or round fruits resemble a small hedgehog. On the surface of the rough red to reddish-brown skin, small spines protrude. Beneath the skin is the coveted white to pinkish flesh with a specific aromatic smell and sweet taste. In the middle of the pulp we find a hard stone the size of a bean. It is not consumed and can be easily separated from the pulp.

Why is it appropriate to include Chinese lychees in our diet?

Consuming lychee has several health benefits such as:

It helps with digestion

The significant amount of fiber in lychee, as in most fruits and vegetables, can help bulk up your stool and possibly improve digestion. It also stimulates gastric and digestive juices, which improves nutrient absorption. This helps in fighting constipation and other gastrointestinal disorders.

Strengthens immunity

Perhaps the most important nutrient in lychee is vitamin C. In addition, this fruit contains more than 100% of the daily requirement of ascorbic acid in a single serving. This is a great immune system supporter, as vitamin C is a major antioxidant compound and is known to stimulate the activity of white blood cells, which are the main line of defense of the human body’s immune system.

It may have anti-cancer potential

Lychee contains polyphenolic compounds that exhibit antioxidant activity. These compounds show impressive anticancer potential against human liver cancer cells. Lychee is a rich source of organic compounds, so it can be consumed as an effective preventive measure against various types of cancer.

Improves cognitive functions

There is a study that highlights the neuroprotective effect of lychee seeds. Study shows significant improvement in cognitive function and prevention of neuronal damage in a rat model of Alzheimer’s disease.

It has antivirus capabilities

The proanthocyanidins in lychee have been extensively studied, and researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have also demonstrated antiviral abilities. Litchitannin A2, a compound found in lychees, is closely associated with preventing the spread or outbreak of viruses, including herpes simplex virus and coxsackie virus.

It helps control blood pressure

Lychees are high in potassium, which means they can help your body maintain fluid balance; it’s also low in sodium, which helps too. Fluid balance is an integral part not only of metabolic functions, but also of hypertension. Potassium is considered a vasodilator, which means it reduces the constriction of blood vessels and arteries, thereby reducing the burden on the cardiovascular system. Potassium levels are several times higher in dried lychee than in fresh lychee!

It helps fight the flu

A potent phenolic compound found in lychees is associated with a number of important health benefits, including anti-influenza activity, improved blood circulation, weight loss, and protection of the skin from harmful UV rays from sun exposure. It also exhibits significant antioxidant capabilities, as do ascorbic acid and other proanthocyanidins in lychee.

Improves blood circulation

Copper is another essential mineral found in significant amounts in lychee, and although iron is most commonly associated with red blood cells, copper is also an integral part of red blood cell formation. Therefore, the copper content in lychee can promote blood circulation and can increase the oxygenation of organs and cells.

Fresh lychees, whole and halved.

Side effects of consuming lychee

Since lychee is a very good source of sugars , diabetics should be careful when consuming it, as it can skew blood sugar levels. Lychee can also disturb the balance of nutrients in the body . Excessive consumption of lychee may result in irritation of the membranes, nosebleeds, fever or sore throat. However, there are no health risks in normal amounts.

In 2019, interesting information also appeared in the news. Children living near lychee orchards in India have been waking up screaming and crying since mid-May. They had seizures, comas, and in about 40 percent of cases they even died. Then in July the monsoon rains came and the epidemic ended. This happened every year. Finally, scientists managed to determine the cause – malnourished children ate lychee on an empty stomach.

Hungry children often ate unripe lychees or lychees that had fallen to the ground and contained high amounts of a naturally occurring amino acid derivative called hypoglycine. Laboratory tests confirmed this and showed abnormally high levels of hypoglycin in the urine of the affected children. Hypoglycin inhibits the body’s ability to produce glucose, causing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which has affected children whose blood sugar was already low because they hadn’t eaten dinner. Health officials urged parents to give their children dinner and limit the amount of lychees they eat. Thanks to this, the cases of the mysterious disease have decreased significantly.

So is lychee dangerous?

Lychees are consumed in various countries around the world without any problems. A key lesson we can learn from children in India is not to eat unripe lychees on an empty stomach. If you are well nourished and eat ripe lychees in moderation, you have nothing to worry about!

Nutritional values ​​of Chinese lychee

In the following table, look at the comparison of nutritional values ​​in 100 g of fresh and dried lychees.

Nutritional values Quantity in 100 g of fresh lychee Quantity in 100 g of dried lychee
Energy 66 kcal 277 calories
Fats 0.4 g 1.2 g
Carbohydrates 17 g 71 g
Sugars 15 g 66 g
Fiber 1.3 g 4.6 g
Proteins 0.8 g 3.8 g

Vitamins and minerals in Chinese lychee

Also look at the amount of minerals and vitamins that both dried and fresh lychees contain.

Vitamins and minerals Quantity in 100 g of fresh lychee Quantity in 100 g of dried lychee
Vitamin B1 0.011 mg 0.010 mg
Vitamin B2 0.065 mg 0.570 mg
Vitamin B3 0.603 mg 3,100 mg
Vitamin B6 0.100 mg 0.090 mg
Folates 14.00 mcg 12.00 mcg
Vitamin C 71.5 mg 183.0 mg
Vitamin D 0.00 mcg 0.00 mcg
Vitamin E 0.07 mg 0.31 mg
Vitamin K 0.4 mcg 1.6 mcg
Choline 7.1 mg 12.7 mg
Calcium 5.00 mg 33.00 mg
Copper 0.15 mg 0.63 mg
Iron 0.31 mg 1.70 mg
Magnesium 10.00 mg 42.00 mg
Phosphorus 31.00 mg 181.00 mg
Potassium 171.00 mg 1110.00 mg
Selenium 0.60 mcg 1.30 mcg
Sodium 1.00 mg 3.00 mg
Zinc 0.07 mg 0.28 mg

How to keep lychees fresh for as long as possible?

Lychee has a hard, thin skin that can keep it fresh for a long time. However, if there is a cut on the peel or it has been mishandled, its shelf life will be drastically reduced.

So how to choose the right lychee in the store?

When buying a lychee, you should thoroughly check its appearance. This will reveal the quality of the fruit.

As for the color of the fruit, it should be pink or red. If there is a green color or a greenish tint to the peel, it is best not to buy it. Lychees are among the fruits that do not ripen further after harvesting.

Another thing to look for is if there are any cuts, tears or blemishes on the skin of the fruit. A small cut on the fruit can spoil it very quickly. Don’t forget to look at the base of the fruit where the stem is. Sometimes these fruits are harvested too aggressively and the stem could be torn off the fruit. It can be a little hard to tell, but if you squeeze the fruit gently, the fruit will open a little if it’s torn.

Spots are the last thing you should look for when buying a lychee. If there are any dark spots or marks on the fruit, it is best not to buy it. This usually means the pulp is damaged and spoiling.

Lychee handling

Lychee is a delicate fruit that requires gentle handling to keep it fresh longer. When you get home, always wash the fruit under running water first. This will remove any contamination that may be on the fruit.

Once washed, carefully place it in a bin or container. Do not put too many fruits in the basket. Too many lychees in a single basket could put too much pressure on the lychee at the bottom and could cause it to crack. About 20 to 30 pieces of fruit in a basket should be enough.

If you are going to store them at room temperature, water the fruits every plus or minus an hour. Another option would be to put them under running water for a few seconds. This will help them retain skin color and moisture.

If you are not going to consume or use them within 6 hours, store them in a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate.

So how do I know if a lychee is bad?

Appearance A lychee that is spoiled will be soft. If you squeeze it gently, it will soften and the skin may break. The skin may be dry or have spots on it.
Scent A bad lychee will have a sour smell.
Taste A spoiled lychee will have a sour taste. If it tastes anything other than sweet, you should throw it away.

How to properly store lychees?

Due to the high sugar content, lychees do not last very long after harvest.

So how long do lychees last?

Lychee fruits last 2 to 3 days at room temperature . However, if the room temperature is high, you can expect it to last only one day. Always protect it from direct sunlight and other heat sources. If you have peeled it, remember to use it within 6 hours. After this time, it will start to lose its sweetness and become sour.

It will last 5 to 7 days in the refrigerator . This applies to both whole and peeled lychees. It should be stored in a resealable plastic bag or airtight container. This will help it retain moisture. Do not store it together with fruit that produces ethylene gas (e.g. apples or bananas), it spoils faster. If you store peeled lychees in the refrigerator, it is best to place them in a container filled with syrup. The syrup will help the lychee retain its sweet taste. These containers should also be airtight so that no air gets in there.

Frozen lychees will stay fresh for 6 months , but will lose quality. It is best to freeze the whole fruit with the peel. This will help the lychee retain moisture, freshness and texture after thawing. Make sure you only freeze lychees that don’t have any cuts on the surface. If it has, it can cause frostbite. Of course, you can also freeze peeled lychees, but they will fall apart after thawing.

Lychees in a plastic bag.

There are two ways to freeze lychees depending on what you will be using them for:

Freezing whole lychees, with skin and seeds:

  1. Remove the stem from each fruit.
  2. Do this carefully so as not to tear the skin.
  3. Place the lychees in a colander or similar.
  4. Wash all fruits to remove all dirt and debris.
  5. Let them sit for half an hour to dry.
  6. You can also dry them with a paper towel.
  7. Once the berries are dried, carefully place them in a freezer bag.
  8. Leave about an inch of space at the top of the bag to zip it up.
  9. Date the bag and put the fruit in the freezer.

Freezing only the pulp, without skin and without seeds:

  1. Wash the lychees with clean water.
  2. Peel the skin from the lychee and remove the seeds.
  3. Place the pulp in an airtight container or freezer bag.
  4. Leave about an inch of space at the top of the container or bag.
  5. If using a bag, squeeze out as much air as possible.
  6. This will reduce the likelihood that the fruit will get frostbite.
  7. Seal the container or bag tightly.
  8. Label the container or bag with the date and place it in the freezer.

Above is only an approximate shelf life. Other factors like storage temperature and harvest time determine how long it actually lasts.

For an idea, look at the following table, which shows how long lychee will last in a specific form at different temperatures.

Room temperature Refrigerator Freezer
Whole lychees 2 – 3 days 7 – 10 days 6 months
Peeled lychees 4 – 6 hours 5 – 6 days 6 months
Canned lychees 1 year after the expiration date 1 year after the expiration date not recommended

How can we use Chinese lychee in the kitchen?

The fruit is usually eaten fresh, but can also be preserved or dried . The taste of the fresh pulp is aromatic and musky, the dried pulp is sour and very sweet.

If the fruit is very ripe, you can tear off the end of the skin and then squeeze out the fruit. If not, use a serrated knife to cut lengthwise through the skin and around the seed. Then just peel away the skin and inner membrane to reveal the white, edible pulp. Remove the seed, it is slightly toxic.

Lychees are commonly eaten fresh on their own or added to fruit salads . Goes great with banana, coconut, mango, passion fruit and pineapple. You can fill it with cottage cheese and serve it as a salad with dressing and nuts or stuffed with cream cheese and mayonnaise . It is often used in desserts , layered with pistachio ice cream and whipped cream or you can use it in mousses or cakes.

When you add lychees to oatmeal together with cashews , you will have an absolutely luxurious breakfast.

It can also be stewed in butter with orange liqueur and thus prepare a great filling for pancakes or make a great side dish for meat and fish dishes .

You can also blend it into a smoothie and quite often it is also used to make a syrup , which you prepare by boiling it with sugar and water. The syrup is an excellent sweetener for cocktails, teas and other drinks. You can also drizzle it over ice cream or sorbet.

A few pictures - fresh lychees, a glass of ice cream with a spoon, a glass of ice cream on a plate and another glass of ice cream with a fresh lychee placed next to it.

Tips for great recipes with lychees

1. Lychee and lime sorbet: Boil some lychee with sugar. Allow to cool and mix with lime juice to make a sorbet. This frozen delight is a great summer dessert and very easy to make.

2. Lychee and rose water ice cream: Place some lychee with syrup in a food processor. Add some raspberries and rose water and blend until smooth. Whip the cream in a clean bowl. Mix the lychee and raspberry mixture and the condensed milk into the cream and whisk everything quickly at the end. Pour into a plastic container and freeze for at least 3 hours.

3. Thai salad with shrimp and lychee: For the dressing, crush some green chilies in a mortar and pestle. Add some red chilli, cane sugar, lemon juice and fish sauce and mix. Mix the dressing with the shrimp, mint, cilantro, lychee, bean sprouts and peanuts. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with a few more peanuts and dried onion.

4. Cold Watermelon Lychee Dessert: Place 4 cups frozen watermelon cubes, 2 cups frozen lychee juice, 3 tablespoons rose syrup, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a blender. Crush everything and pour into serving glasses.

Other uses of lychee in recipes:

How to prepare homemade dried lychee?

Dried lychee is very popular. It can be stored for up to a year and is used as a snack or you can add it to fruit and vegetable salads. Many Chinese people use dried lychees to sweeten their tea instead of sugar.

Lychee drying outdoors

  1. Fill a large pot with water and heat it on the stove until it boils.
  2. Place the lychees in a saucepan and reduce the heat to medium.
  3. Choose those fruits that have bright red skins, otherwise they will taste bitter when you dry them.
  4. Stir the lychees occasionally during cooking.
  5. Cook for about 5 minutes and then pour it into a colander to drain all the water.
  6. Place the rack on the baking sheet so that it is raised about 2.5 cm above the surface.
  7. Place the lychees on the grid so that the individual fruits are about 1.3 cm apart, so they will dry better.
  8. Cover with thin gauze or a piece of muslin to protect the lychee from pests.
  9. During the first 2 days, leave the tray prepared in this way with the grid outside – in a shady place.
  10. Wait until temperatures are above 24°C and humidity below 60%.
  11. Look for a flat and stable surface that does not receive any direct sunlight during the day.
  12. Leave the tray with the fruit alone during the day so that it has time to dry.
  13. Hide the sheet at home for the night, or if it rains during the day.
  14. Moisture can slow down the drying process or cause the fruit to rot, so try to keep it as dry as possible.
  15. If you accidentally leave the fruit out overnight, check it in the morning for a pungent smell or discoloration as it may have gone bad.
  16. After 2 days, leave the sheet in a place where the sun shines during the day for 2 weeks.
  17. Keep the fruit outside during the day and bring it home at night so it doesn’t get wet.
  18. Check the fruits every day and stop drying them when they have a leathery texture, which usually takes about 2 weeks.

Keep the lychees in their skins and place in a glass or airtight plastic container.

When you want to consume dried lychees, remove the skin and the stone.

Dried lychees.

Using a fruit dryer

  1. Peel and pit the lychees.
  2. Cut it into 0.64-1.27 cm pieces.
  3. Spread the lychee pieces evenly on the dryer trays, leaving at least 0.64 cm of space between them.
  4. Once you have added all the pieces of fruit, stack the trays in the dryer and close the lid.
  5. Turn on the dehydrator at 60°C for 24 hours to dry the fruit.
  6. Do not use temperatures higher than 60°C as this may affect the taste of the lychee.
  7. Allow the dryer to cool for at least 10-15 minutes after turning off the timer.

Store dried lychees at room temperature in an airtight container. Use a container with a lid or a resealable plastic bag and place the dried lychee pieces in it. Don’t forget to date the packaging so you know when you made them. Store in a pantry or cupboard at room temperature for up to 1 year.

You can also store dried lychees in the fridge or freezer for up to 18 months.

Cultivation of Chinese lychee

Litchi (Litchi chinensis) is a subtropical broad-leaved evergreen tree native to China, where it grows in a warm, humid climate. It is grown in Southeast Asia, Africa, Israel, Australia and the southern United States.

In its natural environment, the tree grows to a height of 10 to 15 meters . In spring, it produces small yellow flowers that grow on twigs that are about 30 cm long. Each flower can produce 2 to 20 fruits that ripen in 60 to 80 days. The fruits have a rough, pinkish-red skin, a white gelatinous flesh that is sweet, and a reddish-brown seed in the center.

In tropical climates, lychees do not do well when grown in places at sea level. It is best grown in warm to cool subtropical regions with the following conditions:

  • Dry, cold (non-freezing) winters that last three to five months.
  • Warm spring during flowering.
  • Hot and humid summer during spawning.
  • Slightly high temperatures in autumn.
  • Periodic precipitation in spring and summer.

More than half of all lychees are consumed fresh, approximately 30 percent is used for dried lychees, and a small portion is frozen, canned, or fermented. Although different varieties vary widely in ripening time, the peak harvest period lasts only about one and a half months from late May to early July . Most of the fruit that is produced at this time must be transported to the market immediately after harvesting, only a small part is then stored in the cold.

A lychee tree covered in fruit.

How to grow lychees from seed in 4 steps

Lychees contain a single seed that can be planted. Although lychee will not grow in our conditions, and unfortunately it will not bear fruit either. However, it can be a nice and interesting houseplant.

  1. Get the seed.
    Buy the fruit, eat it and keep the stone. You need those fruits that are ripe (look for larger lychees with red-purple skin) for the viability of your eventual grown fruit.
  2. Soak the seed for three days.
    Rinse the seeds gently and then dry them with a paper towel. Place the seeds in a small bowl filled with warm water. The seed will need to sit for three days, which helps with germination. Change the water every day to keep it fresh, and when the outside of the seed starts to crack, it’s time to plant.
  3. Plant a lychee seedling.
    Get a container with drainage holes that is almost 12 inches tall and fill it with soil. The soil should be slightly acidic. Bury the seed completely, about 2.5 cm into the soil. To grow lychees, you will need to mimic a subtropical environment: humid and warm. Keep the pot in a warm room, but keep the growing lychee out of direct sunlight. In the early stages of growth, shade is best.
  4. Water and move your plant.
    Lychees need more water than the average houseplant. Water it every other day and check the soil to see how moist it is. When the green lychee leaves start to emerge from the soil, move the pot to more direct sunlight. Lii hibernates at a temperature of around 10 degrees Celsius, but can tolerate a short-term drop in temperature below 0 degrees Celsius. Fertilize the plant from the end of February to the end of September once every 14 days with common liquid fertilizers for houseplants.

What is the difference between lychee, rambutan and longan?

Lychees, rambutans and longans all belong to the Sapindaceae family. These are very similar exotic fruits, but after all we can find several differences between them. Which ones are they?

Rambutan Lychees Longan
What does it look like from the outside? Red shell with long soft spines. Bumpy pink skin. Smoother brown skin.
What’s under the skin? Fragrant white pulp surrounding the seed. Fragrant white pulp surrounding the seed. Fragrant white pulp surrounding the seed.
How does it taste? Sweet and fragrant. It is the sweetest and most fragrant. More sour, musky.
In what form can you buy it? Fresh, dried, canned, frozen. Fresh, dried, canned, frozen. It is harder to find them fresh, rather you will find them dried, canned or frozen.
When is his season? Autumn and winter. Late spring to early fall. Late spring to early fall.
Where it comes from? It originates from the area of ​​present-day Malaysia. It comes from southeastern China and northern Vietnam, and is mostly cultivated in Southeast Asia. It is native to southeastern China but is found at higher altitudes than lychees.
Fresh rambutan, lychee and longan.

Lychee history and interesting facts

The history of lychees began in China more than 2000 years ago . The trees on which lychees grow thrived in the southern lowlands of Kwangtung and Fukien provinces, especially near water, along rivers, and near the coast. In China it was recognized as the king of all fruits and was extolled in Chinese literature from 1059 AD Although trees can live for thousands of years, their seeds only live for a few days. This meant that the seeds could not travel far and remain viable.

However, over time, seed treatments were developed to keep them viable longer, and lychees finally began to migrate out of China. Cultivation first spread to neighboring areas of Southeast Asia that border China and its offshore islands . From there, in the late 17th century, lychee was brought to Burma, then to India and the East Indies. It wasn’t until the 19th century that lychee reached the West. It first appeared in England and France , where it was planted in greenhouses, and from there it was taken to the East Indies .

In the 1920s, China produced 13.6 million kg of lychees and remained the largest producer, a dominance that continues to this day. It produces more than 60% of global production . Today, India has moved to the second position in the production of lychees. You can also find lots of lychee trees in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Taiwan, Japan, Philippines, Queensland, Madagascar, Brazil and South Africa.

Milan & Ondra

We are both fans of good food and enjoy cooking. On this website, we want to inspire you with traditional, but also less common recipes. We will be happy if you try our recipes and let us know how you liked them. Bon appetite! :)