Do you ever feel adventurous when it comes to trying new foods? I do often as long as it's not totally out there such as eating bugs or something. This is what brings me to my post today. We have some of the most wonderful fresh fruit and veggie shops around here and when it becomes the wonderful spring and summer months, they become just packed with all sort of new and hidden treasures from mangos to papaya and to some things such as wild lychee fruit. There are so many wonderful and all natural items to be found in the produce section of even just your local grocer but if you have a chance to get to speciality store that carry even more in the way of exotic, go and visit!
Today's post though is about the wonderful but sadly neglected lychee. There are of course more then one varieties but mostly between 2... wild and farmed.
The other week while I was visiting one of my most beloved fruit stores when I came across these kind of odd almost spiny looking round things. As curious as I am about the world around me, I read enough of the sign that was with them to make out that they were indeed lychee fruit. So I bagged up a few (they are expensive compared to the farmed version!) and in my basket they went.
It took me a few days before I cut into them though but I sure am glad that I did. I would suggest though that when you buy this kind that you buy it not for the sake of making any kind of recipe that calls for this fruit due to the labour involved in getting the fruit from it's shell, the price that comes with it and the fact that they are just so special in the way of fruit. Use them as a nice little plate garnish or cut one up and put it in a glass of fruity wine (they even make lychee wine!) but what ever you do use them for something special!
The fruit itself without it's shell is not any bigger then about an inch long and not perfectly round but more oblong in shape. It's shell is semi-hard to the touch but breaks away quite easily once a slit is made in it. They do not have the kind of shell that you should 'hit' against something like say you would do to a hard boiled egg to remove the shell. Take a small shape knife to the shell and VERY carefully make a slit. The skin is less then 1mm thick ... it's more of a hard skin then a shell really. Then you should be able to get into the slit to find this wonderfully white and juicy little fruit piece inside. All lychees unless processed have this kind of skin thin shell but the wild lychee has this wonderfully spiky (but soft so don't be afraid of handling them!) look to it where as the farm grown ones have no spikes at all and have a very pinkish to dark pinkish colour.
** Farmed lychee photo from taste.com.au from their article on lychee cooking tips **
Once you've uncovered the little white ball from within it's shell, I suggest for the first time that you just pop the little guy whole into your month because if they are ripe and ready, they will be very juicy. Be cautious though because inside this fruit lays a very hard and rather large seed. It takes up about 1/4th to 1/2 the size of the fruit and is hard! But eating the wonderful white flesh away from it is very easy and you'll be rewarded with a very nice sweet experience.
If you want to ever try a lychee without all the hassles of getting it out of the shell or having to deal with the seed, a lot of stores now carry these little fruits already prepared for you in cans (sometimes jarred) in syrup but unless you are making something that calls for more then a half cup of lychees I would suggest you NEVER by these as not only will you 99% of the time only find them in syrup (not even real fruit juice like you can find pineapple in for example) but again they go into the 'less processed the better' rule that I try to make a point of within my writings.
When you go for fruit and veggies... go for fresh! Better tasting, no added/unwanted extra sugars, no added salts (like you find in canned veggies for example, no lose of vitamins due to the storing process and no other processing crap. 100% all natural and 100% promised to be gluten free! How much better can you get then that?? Don't forget a lot of places even offer you already prepared fruit and veggies done right there in the store too if you don't have time for preparing it, just make sure they get it fresh and prepare it fresh and if they preserve it for the fridge shelf that they use juice to store it in and not sugared syrups.