Lychee the Magic Dragon Berry

lychee in its dragon skin
Several weeks ago, after an evening of Korean barbecue for dinner, Mom put down a bowl of what looked like little, fat pink and yellow dragons in front of me. Eat them! They were for dessert, but I had no idea what they were nor how to attack the little spiny monsters.

Lychees! These are lychees?!?! Up until a few weeks ago, lychees were just a very-trendy-for-now flavor for cocktails or hard candy. I had only eaten real lychees as part of a Chinese shaved ice dessert, and knew them as white, sometimes faintly pink, delicately sweet fruits with a somewhat slimy texture like a peeled grape. They were always chopped and mixed in with all the other sweetened condensed milk, almond jelly, and red bean, so I never got a sense for what they looked like whole.

The funny thing is, I knew what a raw lychee looked like based on some pictures I had seen in their more “normal” form to me, in a can. They looked like yellowish pink strawberries. But the bowl in front of me didn’t look anything as innocuous as strawberries.

lychee with skin
tiny little magical dragon

Berries have no real skin that has to be peeled, so you just eat the whole thing. Lychees have a skin that is rough and scaly, like what I would imagine a dragon to feel like, but the fruit is not hard like a golf ball, it gives when you squeeze it. But though the skin is tough, it isn’t thick. Once you break through, it’s very thin, and isn’t attached to the fruit part. It just peels off. Other “peel” fruits have skins that either have to be cut with a knife, like an apple, or peeled apart because they’re attached to the fruit inside, like an orange. The lychee skin is sort of like an avocado’s.

bowl of peeled lychees
bowl of sweet and sticky naked dragons

The flesh inside is milky white, and this is the part with which I am familiar. What I didn’t know about was the shiny dark brown seed inside that pops right out. Now that I think about it, a lychee really is like an avocado, with its reptilian skin and sweet soft fruit surrounding a dark pit that’s not attached. Avocadoes are also known as alligator pears. Lychees should be called dragonberries.

I’m sort of addicted to lychees now, and each time I’ve gone home this summer, there’s a little bowl of dragons on the counter. There isn’t much else you can do with lychees other than eat them raw. Some fruits are food fruits, that you can bake into pastries. Some fruits are just fruit fruits that you eat plain, like grapes and… lychees. I just can’t really imagine that a lychee pie will ever make it onto a dessert menu in the near future. But that’s alright. I’m certainly okay with a lychee martini after dinner :)

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  • Sam

    My own personal opinion is that lychees are the most seusual food stuff I have ever encountered. There is something about tearing on that juicy flesh with your teeth and finding that amazing shiny, dark, virginal seed inside. Oh my, excuse me please I think I need a cold shower…

  • Jennifer

    Fresh lychees are little sweet treasures. They are difficult to find in their natural state in my neck of the woods, so it is always cute to watch puzzled store clerks try to figure out just what they are.

  • Tmblweed

    I’ve always liked lychees throughout my life. But there’s one fruit that for me, recently blew away the lychee: mangosteen. But it’s unfortunately a fruit that the USDA doesn’t allow to be entered in the States. =P

    For lychee, you can buy some canned yellow colored Ai-Yu Jelly. Add some honey, a bit of lemon juice (optional) and the lychees. Chill and serve. Yum.

  • Kirk

    You know we had lychee and longon trees throughout the neighborhood I grew up in. I just thought that everybody got good fresh lychees. Until recently most of the lychees that I found on the mainland were previously frozen, thus kind of dry. But it seems recently that the lyhees available are very fresh!

  • sarah

    lychees aren’t all that easy to find here either, or maybe i’m just never really on the look out for them…my mom finds them at the larger asian markets, but i have never seen them anywhere else.

    i’m curious about mangosteen! does it taste like a mango? i’m also curious about rambutan – which looks like an even more alien lychee – LOL!

    sam! you are soooo naughty! LOL! i just thought they looked like little fairytale dragons and now…tainted! my vision has been tainted! LOL!

  • sarah

    aw, and kirk, wow, you don’t know how lucky you are when you’re a kid, huh? lychees on trees that you can just pluck and eat!

    when we lived in texas, we had a ton of fig trees in our back yard, and i thought they were just SO boring. now, i absolutely LOVE figs and can’t wait for their season to come around. could you just DIE to have your own fig tree and be able to just snatch fresh figs off your own tree whenever you want!?!?

    • Anonymous

      I live in Florida and after 2 years looked up the berries I kept finding in my backyard, I have a Lychee tree in my backyard and this is the second year I have seen berries. They are slimy looking when you crack them open, The squirels pretty much got all the product last year, and this year trying to keep an eye on them so I can get some down to eat, share, or even sale to the produce stand. he sold them last year( not mine) for around 5 dollars a pound. He had called them something else not sure if he was trying to fraud us into believing they were some rare good for you berry.

  • Helen (AugustusGloop)

    Ooh ice cold lychees are sensational in summer.

    I prefer lychees over rambutans. Some say that rambutans are sweeter, but I also find they’re not quite as juicy (lychee dribble is like watermelon dribble… part of the fun).

    I didn’t know that mangosteens are banned from being imported in the US! Unfortunately they don’t taste like mango. Perhaps more like a cross between a lychee and a custard apple?

    Longans are also pretty tasty too. Very very juicy. And dribbleworthy… lol

  • Clare Eats

    I have a post on mangosteenes
    http://eatstuff.blogspot.com/2005/07/study-of-2-mangosteenes.html
    They are nothing like a mango though ;)

    I saw something that said they are nearly approved for import but we be $3 each!

    I love lychees and I think dragonberries is a great name!

  • sarah

    la cheesemonger – for some reason, your comment, though it comes through to me via email, will not show up in the comments on the blog! i think it may be a technical issue with the blogger software because it’s so long! i didn’t do anything to it, i promise! please email me! (i don’t have any other way to communicate with you!)

    on the mangosteens: aw, i kind of wish they tasted like mangoes – which i love, but am allergic to! how sad, eh? actually, even though i’m allergic, i still eat them, lol!

    i just took a peek, clare, at your mangosteens! they really are so pretty! i wonder why they’re not allowed in the u.s. hm. makes me want to try them even more :)

  • Fatemeh Khatibloo-McClure

    Two things.

    1 – Molly from Spicetart and I were at a wine-tasting where we both got “dill” from a particular wine’s nose. Everyone else at the table got “lychee”. Guess which two people had never tasted a fresh lychee??

    2 – I finally got to taste a fresh lychee this summer. C grew up on them in Florida, but they were an obscurity for me. Anyway, I don’t love them. I wish they were a little more tart or something; I don’t know. I think I’m crazy because EVERYBODY loves lychee. I think I need to get them from an asian market or something and try ‘em again.

  • LACheesemonger

    No problem Sarah, are not all of my posts super long? lol. … and why are you the only one who gets to write super long posts ;) Since you have the capability of just deleting any unwanted posts, why not break my ‘long post’ in halves and post them yourself? You should be able to use the “Other’ options like I did, and test it yourself.

    Coding problems could be any of several things. I used a jpg pic for the ‘Your web page’, when using the ‘Choose an Identity’ portion (sorry, not registered w/Ebogger as yet).

    I think my prior posts were that long also, but try the typical analytical/mathematic problem solving method. Cut the larger problem in half, the half where the problem remains is where the fault lies.

    Probably better that the post did not go through, I led you astray-just got back from TJ’s and they don’t have Lychee nuts, whereas Ralph’s mkt has a ton of them on sale this week @3.29/16oz plastic container. But since I usually buy them in Asian smkts on the east-side while getting takeout Dim Sum, the dessert my mother really likes (and I prefer it too) is a specific mooncake she used to get while growing up as a child in Hawaii. Sunshine bakery uses winter melon & mixed nuts, and theirs is dense & very rich; without being sugary sweet. Goes great as a finish to a Dim Sum meal with hot tea.

    So let us eliminate one possibility being the ‘Your web page’ insertion of a jpg URL, I’ll duplicate this post with the URL as a static line next. You can delete the duplicate one that does not post correctly, yes?

    Patience, I’ll shoot you an e-mail shortly, just wanted to add/post a few more quick (for me at least) questions about your blog on the prior dates, about organization and such… so that others can benefit form your replies.

    • carol

      What do you do with the nuts? Can you eat them? I have a Lychee tree in my backyard and didnt even know it. Lost all the fruit to squirels last year and didnt think to save the seeds. This year I have been going out and picking up the seeds that the squirels leave behind? Or maybe it is the nut they want but dont like the fruit part. Find them all over the yard broke open and half eaten or not even ate just laying there. I was gonna plant the seeds and see if they would grow. Rental and cant take the tree with me. They look so slimy I have not tried yet.

  • sarah

    fatemah: hilarious! but does lychee taste or smell like dill? lol! now i have to do a blind sniffing!

    lacheesemonger: thank you so much for your patience with this silly blogger software and testing out the comments :)

  • hermz

    Awwww… your first fresh lychee. You popped your dragonberry!

  • sarah

    ah, herms, o ye of the unceasing supply of lychee hard candies!

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