Is it a nut? Is it a fruit? Is the question of whether or not it’s a nut qualify to make the lychee a strange fruit? I sure think so, but if that’s not enough for you, consider that the lychee is the only member of the litchi genus. That’s right, it’s an orphan, which automatically makes it strange. While canned lychees can be found pretty much everywhere, they really don’t do the fruit justice. It must be eaten fresh to truly appreciate its strangeness and flavor.
If you live in Asia, there is really nothing strange about the lychee, but that’s because it comes from there. In fact, my first brush with the lychee was in Japan. From first bite, I was in love, but first I had to get to that first bite.
Each lychee is about the size of a gold ball and comes wrapped in a thin skin that keeps its insides juicy. It’s near-impossible to peel these things without getting juicy fingers, but those fingers are well-worth the trouble. Inside, is a white, fleshy fruit that is both crunchy and chewy. It’s an almost-gelatinous texture, but that really doesn’t doesn’t explain it.
The point is…it’s delicious. The flavor is as unique as its genus and so is its seed. Taking up a fair amount of the actual fruit, the shiny brown seed sits in deep contrast to the edible white parts.
All these things add up to on strange, but tasty fruit. Lychees can often be found at Asian markets and it’s definitely best to get them fresh. Canned lychees can give you some sense of the fruit, but definitely not enough to truly appreciate the fruit that has supposedly been cultivated in China for over 4,000 years.