(Last Updated on : 14/06/2012)
Lychee is an Indian fruit which is a sole member of the Indian fruit is also a member of the soapberry family, also known as Sapindaceae. This is a sub-tropical and tropical tree native to southern China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia, and now cultivated in many parts of the world. The fresh fruit has a soft, delicate and whitish pulp with a fragrant flavour. Just because the perfumy flavour is lost in the canning, the fruit is generally eaten fresh.
It is an evergreen tree that reaches 10 to 20 meters tall, and bears fleshy fruits that are up to 5 cm in length and 4 cm wide. The outside of the fruit is also covered by pink-red which is roughly textured rind that is inedible but can easily be removed to expose the layer of sweet, translucent white flesh. Lychees are mainly eaten in various dessert dishes and are especially famous in China, major part of Southeast Asia, along with South Asia and India.
This fruit is cultivated in Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan, Bangladesh and North India (Muzaffarpur in Bihar
and in part of West Bengal
). This fruit has a history of cultivating its first seed as far back as 2000 BC according to the records of China. Lychee cultivation began in the regions of China, Vietnam and Malaysia. There are many stories of the fruit's use as a delicacy in the Chinese Imperial Court. It was first described and introduced to the west in 1782.
Description of Litchi
This is a fruit which is evergreen and is frequently less than 10m (33 feet) tall, sometimes also reaching more than 15 m (49 feet). The bark is grey black, the branches are brownish red. The leaves are 10 to 25 cm (3.9 to 9.8 in) or longer with leaflets in 2-4 pairs. Lychees have similar foliage to the Lauraceae family likely due to convergent evolution. They are also adapted by developing leaves that repel water, and are known as laurophyll or lauroid leaves. Flowers grow on a terminal inflorescence with many panicles on the current season's growth. These panicles actually grow in clusters of ten and sometimes even more, reaching 10 to 40 cm (3.9 to 16 in) or longer, holding hundreds of small white, yellow, or green flowers that are distinctively perfumed.
Fruits ripe in 80 to 112 days which depends on climate location and cultivator! These fruits reach up to 5 cm long and 4 cm wide, changing in shape from round, to ovoid to heart shaped. The thin and though inedible skin is green when immature, ripening to red and pinkish red and is smooth or covered with small sharp protuberances. The skin also turns brown and dry when left out after harvesting. The fleshy, edible portion of the fruit is an aril, surrounding one dark brown inedible seed that is 1 to 3.3 cm (0.39 to 1.3 in) long and .6 to 1.2 cm (0.24 to 0.47 in) wide. Some cultivars produce a high percentage of fruits with shrivelled aborted seeds known as "chicken tongues". These fruit characteristically have a higher price, due to having more edible flesh.
Cultivation and Uses of Litchi
Lychees are extensively cultivated in China and also elsewhere in Brazil, South-East Asia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Southern Japan, and more recently in California, Hawaii, Texas, Florida, the wetter areas of eastern Australia and sub-tropical regions of South Africa, Israel and also in the states of Sinaloa and San Luis Potosi (specifically, in La Huasteca) in Mexico. This fruit actually require warm tropical to subtropical climate that is chilly but also frost-free or with only very small winter frosts not below -4DegC, and with elevated summer heat, rainfall, and humidity. This plant is best grown on well-drained, slightly acidic soils rich in organic matter. According to folklore, a lychee tree that is not producing much fruit can be girdled, leading to more fruit production.