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Delicious and juicy lychee or "Litchi" heralds the arrival of summer. Besides being sweet and nutritious, these berries bring cooling effect on the human body to beat the scorching summer heat. Botanically, this exotic fruit belongs to the family of Sapindaceae and named scientifically as Litchi chinensis.
An attractive and rare sub-tropical fruit tree that bears a luscious red fruit, the Lychee originated over 2000 years ago first in the north tropical rainforests and mountain forests of Southern China, where it is a dominant tree species.
Lychee fruit is grown in many subtropical areas such as Southeast China, India, Indonesia, Israel, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Myanmar, Pakistan, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, and the U.S. (Florida, Hawaii, and California).
1. The lychee has an Oriental origin and is most grown in southern China and Southeast Asia. It has been cultivated for over two thousand years.
2. The lychee tree can grow up to 40 feet high and requires warm, humid temperature along with chilled periods for proper growth. The warm weather is essential for the development of the fruit, while the chilled weather is required for the development of the flower bud.
3. In appearance, the lychee has a rough and firm exterior and texture. Under this skin is the fleshy fruit, which is slightly rounded or heart-shaped, and has a length of about 1-1½ inches. This fruit is translucent and juicy.
4. A little-known fact is that the seed of the lychee is toxic, and while the fruit itself is a great aid for digestion, the seed can wreak havoc with the digestive system. Ensure that you do not consume the seed.
5. Apart from being eaten fresh, this fruit can also be eaten dried. When eaten dried, the fruit gives a smoky flavor. It is also available in a canned form.
Lychees do have one downfall and that is their high sugar content — about 29 grams in one cup. For this reason, eat lychees only in moderation. In rare cases, lychees have also been associated with severe allergies, something to be aware of if you've never tried them before.