I don’t have to go far to get lychee. It’s just an arms-length away.
I just reach over my front lanai and grab a cluster from my neighbor’s tree. The tree is so large that it hangs over my yard and near my deck (and blocks my view).
I grew up with a tree in my parents’ backyard and would pluck the fruit from the tree in the summer. I’d puncture the thick, rough skin and peel around the fruit as the juice drips down my arm. I’d pop the fruit in my mouth and bite down on the soft flesh as more juice dripped down my chin.
Originally from China, lychee is a common fruit tree in Hawaii – like mango and papaya. The tree at my mom’s house had lots of fruit this summer. It’s the most the tree has produced in years. My mom thinks it’s because she fertilized the tree with crushed eggshells around the trunk.
Arborist Heidi Bornhorst, who writes the Hawaii Gardens column for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, says lychee trees are from China and like cold, wet weather. “We had cold temperatures earlier this year,” she says. “That why we’re having a good lychee season – just like the old days.”
The challenge is to pick the fruit before the birds get them. Finding a pole long enough to reach the top of the tree is also challenging. This year, I recruited my nephew, Steven, to help with the harvest.
With lychee trees all around me, I’ve never had to buy lychee. At a recent trip to a farmers market, I found local lychee selling for almost $5 a pound. You’re fortunate if you have a lychee tree in your yard or can get fruit from a neighbor or friends.
“Every Hawaii yard should have at least one fruit tree – something that’s productive with fruit you can share,” says Bornhorst. “With our little bit of valuable land, plant a tree that’s useful and beautiful. And lychee trees and fruit are so beautiful.”
I enjoy lychee plain and cold straight from the refrigerator. But you can also use them in a sauce, salad, and ice cream. How do you like to eat lychee?