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Produce Profile by Mark "Guido The Gardner" ® Ferro
Lychee Nuts
This warm weather is putting me in a tropical mood. So you are thinking

bananas, mangoes or papaya will be served today? Nope. Let's get a bit exotic! How about the tropical specialty called the lychee.

The lychee (lee-chee) is sometimes called a lychee nut. But it's not a nut, as the hard, slick interior seed is not edible, (unless you have a bionic bite.) What is known as the lychee nut is the dried form of lychee.

Originally from China, where they've been grown for over two thousand years, the lychee is as popular there as the apple is here in the U.S. They grow on big, dense trees that can reach up to forty feet, although for ease of cultivation they are kept much smaller. The lychees grow in small clusters, dangling from thin twigs attached to the branches.

Besides their Chinese birthplace, the lychee can be grown in many toasty locales. At any one time they can come from Mexico, Florida, China, Hawaii and lots of other spots. They are even being grown in Southern California, but not on a commercial scale. Right now there is a major crop coming out of Florida.

Lychees are not all that common on regular supermarket shelves. Maybe because they have a a very uncommon look. There are hundreds of varieties of lychees but the most common ones are fairly round, between about an inch to two inches across. The outside has a thin brittle skin, rough and bumpy in texture and usually a pale strawberry red in color.

Now follow me here. The protective skin is not edible. Once you crack it and peel it away you can view your prize. The interior consists of a creamy white, almost translucent flesh, which is grape-like in texture and perfumy sweet. Just watch your teeth on hard seed in the center.

The best way to eat them is fresh, one after another. You can also combine lychees with other fruits in a salad. Best to keep it simple so the texture and exotic lychee flavor is not lost in the fruit shuffle. Think raspberries, kiwi, strawberries, papaya and mango.

When picking them in the store, look for fruits that are heavy for their size and with skins that are more red in color and not cracked. When lychees age, their skins turn a mottled brown and the fruit inside dehydrates. If they are firm, heavy with un-cracked skin, some browning is not bad. If they are still attached to the stems, all the better, as sometimes the skin cracks when the fruit is detached and this can lead to spoiled fruit. If you keep them cold in your refrigerator they will last a couple of weeks, although their flavor is too yummy to last that long.

Lychees perform well in the kitchen as a late addition to a sweet and sour kind of sauce for pork or chicken. A sauce like this also goes real well topped onto cooked rice.

The season fro lychees is pretty short (although they come and goes during other times of the year). But they'll be around now so challenge your taste buds some. One promise. You'll either love 'em or hate 'em!