24 June 2010

Leeches suck you, but you can suck a lychee

12 July INTERRUPTION: If you love good fruit, please read my lastest post,
Foodies arise, for luscious fruits you've never eaten.
We need your help to get the word out before the world's greatest collection is bulldozed.

Now, back to leeches and lychees ~

Just don't call us leeches

Ah, spelling! Ach, pronunciation. What a shock, then for the people who have recently been mobbing (relatively speaking) my posting "A resilience of leeches, and lovely luscious fruit"—all because they searched "fruit leeches".

That posting is about leeches—of the yellow-racing-striped back and bloodsucking chompers, and about a fruit gorged on by insects and birds but not humans. This posting, therefore, is about the deliciously sweet, "jellylike" (in a squeaky way) fruit above, pronounced lee-chee, lye-chee, or li=tzhi.

It is a cruel irony that 'leeches' is a misspelling
Correct names for this fruit:
Litchi chinensis, syn. Nephelium litchi
Common names, all correct somewhere: lychee, litchi, litchee, laichi, lichu, lizhi, and chinese cherry.

Lychees are often confused with rambutans and longans. See the difference on Jim Darley's informative site and (though I like these fruits best straight and not as ingredients) see his mouthwatering recipes, from his book Know and Enjoy Tropical Fruit.

Lychees are a treat eaten out of hand, and unzipping them from their skins is part of the fun. A lychee is as messy in its way as a fresh oyster, being surrounded in its perfect container by a thin layer of juice. The naked flesh has a clean, musical bite and a rather complex sweetness that combines Macintosh apple, pineapple, banana and resin. The seed is so smooth and shiny that it's luxurious on the tongue and a pleasure to behold and hold.

Lychees take to canning well, keeping their firm personality and distinctive taste. They also make excellent dried fruits.

There are many lychee cultivars being sold now, as this is a most attractive evergreen tree and can be grown in a small pot.

Highly Recommended: Lychee, in an excerpt from Fruits of Warm Climates, by Julia F. Morton, on the Purdue University horticulture site


budak said...

i can't decide which one of the three i like best. The rambutan offers the most satisfyingly tactile experience though and would be my choice for a garden tree (if I had a garden).

anna tambour said...

How do you like eating them? And do you ever come across any of these three that grow without humans having planted them?

And you have so many wonderful fruits, so what would be a list of your favourites?

budak said...

we don't get much fresh lychees (the spelling used here) here, so it's mostly canned or juice. Cloyingly sweet but still a joy on a hot day. Fresh longans are available, but I prefer the tactility of peeling rambutans, which are in season mid-year. Only the last grows naturally in the woods here.

I have fond memories of water apples (http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/water_apple.html), which sadly are not grown as much these days. They fruit profusely and as children, we'd pluck the fruit from nearby trees and savour the sweet crunch after an afternoon game.

anna tambour said...

Thank you for replying. Your fond memories have sparked my own happy memories of secret crunching behind bushes! I completely forgot about these fruits you call water apples, which also go by many other names. Ming Chiao posted this rather Taiwan-centered reference, which I found because my own memories are of enjoying this immensely as a child in Taiwan. This genus, Syzygium, has many related species in Australia, the most famous and loved being the lilly pilly, of which there are "over 60 varieties", some of which are described here. Most produce fruits the size of berries, which taste much like the water apple. There is also the "scrub cherry" or "brush cherry", which, like the rosella or "jam plant" (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is often mentioned as "often made into jams". Here are some rosella recipes, I suspect read like most cookbooks: as recreation. The only fruits that are often made into jams in Australia are the ones that the jam manufacturers turn into jams, and that is often made from boiling down sugar adding pectin, then reconstituted this or that, often imported.

But back to your scrumptious fruit memory. This reminds me of my other favourite fruit when in Taiwan, the star fruit (carambola). I hadn't eaten or seen one in years, till about five years ago when the first Australian-grown ones hit the markets here. Have star fruits been ruined elsewhere? My childhood memory was that the fruit was almost unbelievably juicy and crisp, and that the skin broke at the slightest touch of the teeth, being very fragile and thin. The Australian-grown star fruits available here have modern-tomato skins--a membrane completely suitable for roofing buildings. Tough, rubbery, indestructible.

budak said...

i recall best the garden-grown starfruit of a family friend (who also reared bees). The commercially available ones are less juice, more fibre. Similarly for papayas (Hawaiian imports are detestable, tasteless chunks of tendon-like pulp). And bananas... smooth and bland Doles and Del Montes are slowly killing off the succulent (and stained-skin and therefore 'ugly') local strains used for fritters, chips or desserts, which are barely a finger in length but possess a caramel sweetness and melt-in-your mouth texture that fewer seem to savour today.

budak said...

Syzigium (formerly Eugenia) is a horror of a genus. There are dozens of species here, many dwindling and awaiting the day when their treasures enter the realm of the imagined.


anna tambour said...

Horror! The perfect word. That's how I feel about eucalypts, which are hard enough to identify without their sexual profligacy. Hybrids everywhere! Thanks for posting these wonderful links. I love the description for the first, "tasteless but juicy fruits". Our local native fruits such as the geebung (Persoonia spp.) and the aromatically fragrant "native guava" (Eupomatia laurina) are generally rather dry, but they have so much taste that you'll go to sleep still feeling that you've washed your mouth out with paint thinner. Plants here tend to protect themselves with terpenes, tannins and other tasty and volatile ingredients, not that that protects them.

It's so much nicer to imagine exploring these confusing realms of Syzygiumland out your way.

anna tambour said...

and budak,
Your observations on commercial fruit are typically accurate in the most surprising way. If someone advertised those Hawaiian imports of papayas, they would sure turn into talking points. Fresh from Hawaii! Papayas! Detestable, tasteless chunks of tendon-like pulp!

I've never seen the bananas you describe, but they must be glorious. As with apples and peaches, taste in fruit is becoming an aspect that modern fruit developers seem to treat like disease. I hope that your descriptions can spur others to foment for fruit that can be distinguished from a fruit made entirely of wax or plastic.

But then your post The claws of attraction lead me to speculate. What if we had different chemicals in our eyes? What if, paraphrasing you, researchers ground up a crowd of humans' former eyes and scattered the bits mixed with picture-perfect fruit, around their feet.