What Is Lychee?
Scientifically, Litchi chinensis, the fruit we know as lychee, originated in southern China, and possibly northern Viet Nam belongs to the Sapindaceae family.
China is the leading producer of the fruit, followed by India and other countries in Southeast Asia. Lychee’s center origin is believed to be between latitudes 23° and 27° north in the subtropical parts of southern China, northern Viet Nam, and Malaysia.
The cultivation seemingly emerged in 1500 BC by Malayan people descent and has since been subjected to intense selection. Over 2000 years, China has a long history of lychee cultivation until it reached Burma (Myanmar) by the end of the 17th century. About 100 years later, it was introduced in India and Thailand.
Around 1870, the fruit reached Madagascar and Mauritius and was introduced in Hawaii in 1873 by a Chinese trader. Between 1870 and 1880, it arrived in Florida from India and was introduced in California in 1897. It was believed that Chinese migrants brought lychee to Australia in 1954 and arrived in Israel sometime between 1930 and 1940.
Various Names Of Lychee
Let’s learn about the different names of lychee from the different groups of people. In English, the fruit is commonly called leechee; lici; litchee; litchi nut; litchia; lychee; while in Spanish, it is known as mamoncillo chino. The French call it cérisier de la Chine; litchi; litchi de Chine; but the Chinese says dali; danli; huoshan; jingli; lizi, which means the same fruit.
What Is Lychee Fruit?
Lychee fruit is round or oblong and about one and ½ to 2 inches in diameter. Because it has red, bumpy skin, lychee is also known as “alligator strawberry.” It has an opaque white flesh that is fragrant and sweet, with floral notes. Lychee fruit can be eaten fresh or can be used in tropical fruit salads. For beverages, you can make a smoothie or blend it into cocktails and juices.
The fruit has three layers: the reddish husk, white flesh, and brown seed. Although it looks leathery and tough, the fruit’s covering is easy to remove with just your fingers. The inner fruit is a glossy sheen and has a firm texture, similar to a grape.
What Does It Taste Like?
The flavor of lychee fruit can be described in a few different ways depending on who eats it. But commonly, people say it tastes like a cross between a strawberry and a watermelon. Others taste a blend of citrus and rose water or other floral note, owing to the fruit’s sweet, pungent aroma.
How To Grow Lychee
Since it is a tropical tree, it loves to be grown under full sunlight to thrive and be productive. Grow in warm and humid areas, but with a short cold, a dry period that helps pollinate and develop flowers and fruit.
It requires slightly acidic to acidic, fertile soil that is moist and well-drained. USDA Zones 10-11 only. Ensure that your planting area is protected from wind, as the tree can be susceptible to wind damage. To maintain a healthy plant, don’t let it dry out and make sure the soil is slightly acidified.
Although lychee is a sun-loving plant, the young ones are not used to full sun, and they will suffer from sudden exposure to bright light. However, once acclimated, they will definitely perform better and grow bigger and healthier.
Throughout the year, ample and regular watering is needed. However, standing water is unnecessary as it will stunt their growth as they do not have a natural winter resting period. A newly planted tree just requires 2-3 times watering in a week for the first few planting weeks. Minimize watering once the tree has been established.
Temperature and Humidity
Although the lychee plant prefers sunny weather, it can still tolerate short blasts of almost-freezing weather. It needs exposure for at least 100 hours to cold temperatures in winter (32 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit) to bloom. They bloom early in the spring and bear fruit in the early summer.
Potting and Repotting
Growing lychees in pots must be done every spring until they reach the maximum increasing size. To maintain their smaller size and height, aggressively prune the main growing trunks annually to boost a shorter, bushier plant.
Air-layering is the most common way for commercial propagation of lychees. This is a sophisticated technique. Growers cut into a thin branch and then surround it with a moist moss packet or soil. Roots will soon form in the cut area. The grower can cut off the whole branch and plant it again as a small tree.