One of China's cherished fruits for over 2,000 years, the small (1 to 2 inches in diameter) lychee has a rough, bright red shell. The creamy ivory flesh surrounds a single seed and is juicy, smooth and delicately sweet with nuances of cherry and banana. Native to Southeast Asia, the lychee is cultivated in subtropical regions including California, Florida and Hawaii. Fresh lychees are available from June to September. Choose those with brightly colored skins that are heavy for their size and free of blemishes. Place in a plastic bag and refrigerate unshelled for up to 10 days. Break the shell by pressing on one end, then pinch the center of the shell to pop out the fruit. The seed will have to be cut away. Eat plain or as part of a fruit salad or dessert, or add to a cooked dish just before serving. Canned and dried lychees are available year-round. When dried they're often referred to as lychee nuts because they resemble a nutthe shell turns a dark reddish brown and the flesh becomes brown and crisp. They're eaten as a snack, much in the same way as nuts or candy. Also called lichee, litchi and litchi nuts.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.