Fruit of the tree Litchi chinensis (family Sapindaceae), believed to be native to southern China and adjacent regions but now also cultivated elsewhere. It has been a favourite fruit of the Cantonese since ancient times and is a popular dessert in U.S. Chinese restaurants. The fresh pulp tastes musky; when dried, it is acidic and very sweet. The handsome tree develops a compact crown of foliage, with compound leaves that are bright green year-round. Clusters of small, inconspicuous flowers form small, oval red fruits.
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The Lychee (Litchi chinensis), also spelled Litchi (the U.S. FDA spelling) or Laichi and Lichu, Chinese: 荔枝, Hanyu Pinyin: Lìzhī, is the sole member of the genus Litchi in the soapberry family Sapindaceae. It is a tropical fruit tree native to southern China. It is also commonly found in Madagascar, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, southern Taiwan, northern Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Southern Africa.
It is a medium-sized evergreen tree, reaching 15–20 m tall, with alternate pinnate leaves, each leaf 15–25 cm long, with 2-8 lateral leaflets 5–10 cm long; the terminal leaflet is absent. The newly emerging young leaves are a bright coppery red at first, before turning green as they expand to full size. The flowers are small, greenish-white or yellowish-white, produced in panicles up to 30 cm long.
The fruit is a drupe, 3–4 cm long and 3 cm in diameter. The outside is covered by a pink-red, roughly-textured rind that is inedible but easily removed. The inside consists of a layer of sweet, translucent white flesh, rich in vitamin C, with a texture somewhat similar to that of a grape. The edible flesh consists of a highly developed aril enveloping the seed. The center contains a single glossy brown nut-like seed, 2 cm long and 1–1.5 cm in diameter. The seed, similar to a buckeye seed, is not poisonous but should not be eaten. The fruit matures from July to October, about 100 days after flowering. There are two subspecies:
A major early Chinese historical reference to lychees was made in the Tang Dynasty, when it was the favourite fruit of Emperor Li Longji (Xuanzong)'s favoured concubine Yang Yuhuan (Yang Guifei). The emperor had the fruit, which was only grown in southern China, delivered by the imperial messenger service's fast horses, whose riders would take shifts day and night in a Pony Express-like manner, to the capital. (Most historians believe the fruits were delivered from modern Guangdong, but some believe they came from modern Sichuan.)
In the Chinese classical work, Shanglin Fu (上林賦), it is related that the alternate name, 離枝 (pinyin: lízhī), meaning leaving its branches, is so-called because once the fruit is picked it deteriorates quickly.
Lychees are extensively grown in the native region of China, and also elsewhere in South-East Asia, especially in north of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, southern Japan, Taiwan, and more recently in California, Hawaii, Florida in the United States, the wetter areas of eastern Australia and sub-tropical regions of South Africa,Israel and also in the state of Sinaloa in Mexico. They require a warm subtropical to tropical climate that is cool but also frost-free or with only very slight winter frosts not below -4°C, and with high summer heat, rainfall, and humidity. Growth is best on well-drained, slightly acidic soils rich in organic matter. A wide range of cultivars is available, with early and late maturing forms suited to warmer and cooler climates respectively. They are also grown as an ornamental tree as well as for their fruit.
Lychees are commonly sold fresh in Vietnamese, Chinese and Asian markets, and in recent years, also widely in supermarkets worldwide. The red rind turns dark brown when the fruit is refrigerated, but the taste is not affected. It is also sold canned year-round. The fruit can be dried with the rind intact, at which point the flesh shrinks and darkens.
According to folklore, a lychee tree that is not producing much fruit can be girdled, leading to more fruit production.
|Japanese|| Katakana: |
| Hepburn: |
|[ɺ̠ajtɕiː], [ɺ̠ajtɕi], [ɺ̠ejɕi]|
|Korean||Hangul:|| MR: |
| SK: [jʌ.tɕi]|
|Vietnamese||vải, lệ chi|| Hanoi: , |
|Thai||Thai: ลิ้นจี่|| RTGS: |
|Tagalog|| lichias, lichia|
Ref. spelling: litsias
Similar native fruit: alupag-amo
|Hindustani|| Devanāgarī: |