From China to Thailand
with Love LYCHEES
We've all seen them, perhaps even tasted them, usually from a tin bought from our local supermarket or in a popular Chinese restaurant the Lychee (or Litchi to give them their Thai name). These succulent, white fleshed fruit are not native to Thailand but have their ancestry in Southern China. However, the lychee has become an Asian favorite (and world favorites in their canned form) and can be found in most Thai fruit markets during this season.
Although not native to Thailand, the lychee is successfully cultivated in the cooler, high, northern regions of the Kingdom (the plant enjoys neither extreme heat nor humidity) and this harvest is reflected in the Lychee Festivals held during the month of May. Weekend festivals are organized at: Fang district of Chiangmai Province, the main district of Chiangrai Province and the main district of Payao Province. Those thinking of driving can refer to our map on page 10 for locations of these provinces.
To look at a lychee tree that is laden with ripe fruit is very impressive. It's the vivid contrasting colors of the hanging clusters of red fruit that suspends from thin stems on the spreading, bottle green foliaged trees. The fruit look like largish grapes or undernourished golf-balls with a knobby skin and bright red color (which will change to dark brown as they overripen avoid these). This casing is easily peeled away and inside is what the fuss is all about the white-fleshed, fabulously tasting morsel. It is delicately flavored with a very slight acidity to contrast with the overall, light sweetness. It is also aromatic (almost a rose fragrance) and is high in vitamin C half a dozen lychees will provide more than your daily need of this vitamin. The canned variety come in their own light syrup and are perfect as a dessert (perhaps with ice-cream) or put in the blender for lychee juice. Don't hesitate to try the fresh lychees now that they are in season.
As a further recommendation (if one is needed), lychees have been traditionally associated with romantic notions perhaps because of their rose-like bouquet. So if you have a loved one in your life, a gift and tasting of lovely lychees may bring unexpected rewards. Don't forget to buy some at any Chiangmai fruit market or, better still, go along for fun at a Lychee Festival!