The first time I encountered lychee in the wild was when I was at brunch in Tel Aviv, and saw that they had a lychee mimosa on their menu. Up until that moment, I had never even see the word lychee, much less known that it could come in a drink, and so I asked the group I was with the million dollar question: "What is lychee?"

Turns out, they didn't really have an answer for me, and I kind of forgot about it until I saw it again on a different bar's menu, in martini form. I had to know: what is lychee, what does it taste like, and what is it good for?

Where Does Lychee Come From?

Newspaper, cloth, linen, exotic and lychee HD photo by Neha Deshmukh (@nehadeshmukh) on Unsplash

nehadeshmukh on unsplash

Lychees are a close relative to the rambutan and longan and are native to Southern China, but are popular all over Southeast Asia. They are around the size of a golf ball, and, when peeled, are milky white. However, before peeled, they basically look the same as a strawberry but are much bigger.

While they're native to Asia, lychee season does exist in America. It starts in May and continues through the summer, with farms in California, Texas, and Florida. Generally speaking, fresh lychees will be difficult to find in a local supermarket, but the canned versions are a staple.

What Is Lychee Used For?

rambutan, lychee, purple mangosteen, sweet
Delaney Coleman

In America, lychee is mainly used in drinks. As I said earlier, I've seen lychee martinis and mimosas. It's a perfect summer fruit, which explains why it's in so many warm weather drinks. However, outside of the States it's used in literally hundreds of different dishes, like this cucumber lychee salad, this apple, lychee, and raspberry crumble or this red duck curry. Moral of the story: it's a versatile food. It also has solid nutritional value.

Lychees are a good source of Vitamin B, Vitamin C, potassium and polyphenols. In fact, lychees have the second-highest concentration of polyphenols (a chemical that acts as an antioxidant) in any fruit. It has also been said that tea from lychee peelings can cure smallpox or diarrhea, and parts of the bark, root, and flowers can be gargled to cure a sore throat.

What Does Lychee Taste Like?

sweet, lychee, vegetable
Jocelyn Hsu

And lastly, the most important question of all: would I even like this stuff? I read a couple of different articles, and the consensus about the taste of lychee was that it's like a grape, but with a stronger, slightly acidic touch. Some people also swear that it tastes more like a pear or a watermelon. It's a balance of sweet and tart.

When I tried it, I agreed that it tastes similar to a grape, with a more floral undertone. I didn't really like the texture though, and there's a pretty large pit in the middle that I did not see coming. Overall, I don't think I'd like eating lychee in dishes, but I did like the taste and would probably enjoy a lychee-flavored drink

Lychees are a solid addition to most drinks, and are definitely a bold flavor that, if used properly, can add to a dish. If you're craving a new fruit to try, lychee is for sure a solid choice. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to think of more lychee puns.