Many of you in warmer parts of the world will know the Longan Fruit very well. It’s often compared to Lychee in terms of tree size, texture and willingness to grow a-plenty. In fact, most home green thumbs, given the choice, will grow Lychee 9 times out of 10.
Here in Asia, both are grown but there is nearly a 2x difference in price between Lychee and Longan — which is always a consideration no matter how much you love your exotic fruits. Think of it in the context of price the price difference between a pint of Raspberries and Strawberries. Similar to the difference in price, you also get differences in taste and edibility.
I will say from the start that Lychee is sweeter, larger and juicer than Longan, but both are packed with Vitamin C and Antioxidants. If you have a chance to only have one of these two fruits fresh, by all means enjoy Lychee to the fullest. However, if you have the chance to frequent a very well-stocked Asian wet market and find the little old lady that remembers your face, ask her for her freshest Longan on your third or fourth trip back.
In a wet market you will get them attached to a branch and have to pull them off yourself once you get home. Many people will try to use their fingers to break through the thin but tough skin but I say poppycock to that! Wash the bunch very very well, soaking and rubbing the fruit under water. As you pull each fruit off the stick they are attached to, use your teeth to puncture and peel the skin. After you expose the white flesh underneath go ahead and remove the entire seed and flesh, eating around the seed and throwing the skin away; don’t bite too hard because you aren’t going to pierce that seed without breaking a tooth. 🙂
What is most important here, and with so many foods, is eating what’s fresh and in-season. Longan fruit is a great travel companion and, compared to Lychee, it won’t dribble down your chin during that elephant trek in the forests of Thailand. That should keep you happy, the flies away and that elephant trunk out of your face!
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