June 19, 2008
The Fruits of Summer - Lychee
The heat of summer is beginning to kick in, when the "tropical" in "sub-tropical" really becomes apparent (the climate in Taiwan is described as being sub-tropical).?
While this is not something I particularly look forward to, there are some saving graces. Prime amongst them is lychee season.
As I have mentioned before, most produce in Taiwan is seasonal, and this is especially true of the lychee. The season is short from around late May to the end of July, so if you see them, grab them (best to pay first though).
There are various varieties of lychee, but in general they look like this (some are greener and some redder).
The first of the crop are more expensive, anywhere from NT$90 to NT$200 per "jin" (1 jin is approximately 1.3 pounds or 600 grams). Later on in the season though the price will probably come down to NT$100 for up to 8 jin.
Some places will have them graded according to appearance in case you want to give them as a gift, but if you just want to eat them, get the cheaper grade. They will taste the same.
But who cares about the cost when you have fresh lychee? The taste is quite unique, but fantastic. Most people really enjoy their first try unlike the durian for example. They are sweet but not overly so and... well you'll just have to try them for yourselves.
I think they taste best cold (and they make a nice frozen treat), and they should certainly be stored in a refrigerator after being purchased.
Opening them is a bit of a trick and there is a good pictorial here.
After which you will have something like this:
Note the black pit in the middle which is not part of the lychee experience at all being extremely bitter.
It is probably wise to wash the outside of the lychee first (as with all fruit) unless specifically marked as organic.
It is alleged that eating a large quantity of lychee will give you a nosebleed. I have tested this theory to extremes (in the interest of science and the fact that when you start eating them you can't stop) but have never had a problem, however other people have.?
As a final note, there are different ways to spell lychee including litchi, leechee and laichi. They all refer to the same fruit however. Interestingly, the pronunciation in Taiwanese sounds more like "lychee" than the Mandarin (lizh?). Now you know a word of Taiwanese, you'll enjoy the shopping experience as much as trying the delicious lychee!
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