By Liliana Usvat
Lychee fruits are consumed fresh, canned and dried. They are also used to make ice cream, juice, candies and wine.
Lychee is used as a beautiful ornamental tree. It also has various medicinal uses. The crushed seeds are used to alleviate pain and for intestinal problems. A tea from the fruit peel is taken to control diarrhea. Root, flower and bark extracts are taken as a treatment for sore throat. The roots show anti-cancer activity.
Leechee (lychee) are popular Chinese fruits are about the size of walnuts, with a bumpy shell encasing sweet pulp, similar in texture to a grape. Although this fruit is originally from Asia many of these trees have been introduced to the Caribbean and will be an excellent snack and cash crop for farmers.
They require a warm subtropical to tropical climate that is cool but also frost-free or with only very slight winter frosts not below −4°C, and with high summer heat, rainfall, and humidity. Growth is best on well-drained, slightly acidic soils rich in organic matter.
An evergreen tree reaching 10–28 metres tall, the lychee bears fleshy fruits that are up to 5 cm (2.0 in) long and 4 cm (1.6 in) wide. The outside of the fruit is covered by a pink-red, roughly textured rind that is inedible but easily removed to expose a layer of sweet, translucent white flesh. Lychees are eaten in many different dessert dishes, and are especially popular in China, throughout Southeast Asia, along with South Asia, India and parts of Southern Africa
The lychee has a history and cultivation going back to 2000 BC according to records in China. Cultivation began in the area of southern China, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Wild trees still grow in parts of southern China and on Hainan Island. There are many stories of the fruit’s use as a delicacy in the Chinese Imperial Court. It was first described and introduced to the west in 1782.
China – In the 1st century, fresh lychees were in such demand at the Imperial Court that a special courier service with fast horses would bring the fresh fruit from Guangdong.
There was great demand for lychee in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), according to Cai Xiang, in his Li chi pu (Treatise on Lychees). It was also the favourite fruit of Emperor Li Longji (Xuanzong)’s favoured concubine Yang Yuhuan (Yang Guifei). The emperor had the fruit delivered at great expense to the capital
Tips for Planting your Lychee Tree
To grow a healthy lychee tree, start by planting it in a good location. Lychee trees need full sun so you should plant them away from other large trees and you should plant the trees at least 10 feet away from buildings. Shaded areas of the lychee canopy will generally not produce fruit so if you are planting the tree for it’s future fruit production you should pay attention to your tree’s level of sun exposure.
The new growth of lychee tree(s) is very delicate and easily damaged by the wind. Wind damage can severely impair the development of a small lychee tree and destroy new growth before it has a chance to develop and mature. Plant your tree in an area that receives some measure of wind protection.
Lychee trees originated in the rainforests of southern China, where it is not unusual for trees to reach heights up to 100′. For best results, you should attempt to simulate the soil environment of the natural lychee habitat, which is rich in organic matter, moist with good drainage and free of artificial components like perlite or vermiculite.
A lychee tree will provide some natural organic matter to its soil zone through leaf and occasional branch litter and any fruit drop that occurs. However, you need to supplement the area above the root zone (slightly out past the drip line of the tree) with mulch and organic composts.
Avoid planting other plants beneath your lychee tree(s). Lychee trees, which are not grafter or seedlings, which describes most commercially produced trees, have spreading root systems that are close to the surface with no tap root. The roots of weeds and grasses and other plants growing on or around your lychee’s roots will compete with your lychee tree for nutrients. The area under and around your lychee tree canopy has the highest root system density. You want all of the moisture and nutrients to get to the region around your lychee tree’s roots (rhizosphere) and not be taken up by competitors.
The best time to plant your lychee tree(s) is in the late Spring well after the risks of any frosts are over. If you are going to be relying on natural ainfall as the primary water supply for your lychee tree you should wait until the days of afternoon thunder showers begin. In Florida the coincides with the beginning of the rainy season which is in early to mid May. If you have irrigation available for your tree you can begin planting in late March and April. Water you tree in heavily and continue to water the newly planted tree every day until either the rains begin or you install or activate an existing automatic irrigation system.
Lychee trees grown from seed don’t grow true to the parent tree and take 10 to 25 years or more to produce fruits.
Grafted lychee trees also produce fruit in three to five years. Grafting, however, is less successful than air-layering. Lychee grafts require a lychee rootstock and not all varieties are compatible. The difficulty of obtaining an appropriate rootstock generally discourages home gardeners from grafting lychee trees.
The lychee contains on average a total 72 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams of fruit. On average nine lychee fruits would meet an adult’s daily recommended Vitamin C requirement.
A cup of lychee fruit provides, among other minerals, 14% Daily Value (DV) of copper, 9% DV of phosphorus, and 6% DV of potassium (for a 2000-calorie diet).
Like most plant-based foods, lychees are low in saturated fat and sodium and are cholesterol free. Lychees have moderate amounts of phenolics, shown in one French study to be higher than several other fruits analyzed.
- To a small extent, lychees are also spiced or pickled, or
- made into sauce,
- preserves or wine.
- lychees jelly has been made from blanched, minced lychees and
- their accompanying juice, with 1% pectin, and combined phosphoric and citric acid added to enhance the flavor.
- The flesh of dried lychees is eaten like raisins.
- Chinese people enjoy using the dried flesh in their tea as a sweetener in place of sugar.
- Whole frozen lychees are thawed in tepid water. They must be consumed very soon, as they discolor and spoil quickly.
- In China, great quantities of honey are harvested from hives near lychee trees. Honey from bee colonies in lychee groves in Florida is light amber, of the highest quality, with a rich, delicious flavor like that of the juice which leaks when the fruit is peeled, and the honey does not granulate.
- Medicinal Uses: Ingested in moderate amounts, the lychee is said to relieve coughing and
- to have a beneficial effect on gastralgia,
- tumors and enlargements of the glands.
- One stomach-ulcer patient in Florida, has reported that, after eating several fresh lychees he was able to enjoy a large meal that, ordinarily, would have caused great discomfort.
- Chinese people believe that excessive consumption of raw lychees causes fever and nosebleed. According to legends, ancient devotees have consumed from 300 to 1,000 per day.
- In China, the seeds are credited with an analgesic action and
- they are given in neuralgia and orchitis.
- A tea of the fruit peel is taken to overcome smallpox eruptions and diarrhea.
- In India, the seeds are powdered and, because of their astringency, administered in intestinal troubles, and
- they have the reputation there, as in China, of relieving neuralgic pains.
- Decoctions of the root, bark and flowers are gargled to alleviate ailments of the throat.
- Lychee roots have shown activity against one type of tumor in experimental animals in the United States Department of Agriculture/National Cancer Institute Cancer Chemotherapy Screening Program.
- asthma, astringent,
- blood thinner,
- gastrointestinal conditions,
- heart disease,
- high cholesterol,
- nerve pain,
- orchitis, pain (hernia),
- skin care,
- skin rashes,
- sore throats,
- swollen glands,
- tonic (gastrointestinal),
- Facilitates the absorption of nonheme iron contained in dairy products, plant based foods and eggs
- Helps in the formation of collagen, a fibrous tissue necessary for wound healing
- eating litchis regularly helps stimulates the immune system and prevent disease.
- Improves the actions of teeth and bones
- Strengthens the immune system against infections
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