Longan’s origin is southern China. Its name means ‘dragon eye’ in Chinese as the shelled fruit resembles an eyeball (the black seed shows through the translucent flesh like a pupil). Nowadays, longan can be found growing throughout Southeast Asia, and fresh longans are available between July and September. Hardcore longan lovers can find canned or dried longans at Asian grocery stores year-round to satisfy their longan cravings.
Longan is similar to lychee and both belong to the same soapberry family. Longans grow on trees and each fruit round is attached to a stem. When you choose longan, look for those with dry, brown skin. Ripe longan flesh is white and translucent. It has a firmer texture than lychee flesh, and has a mild honey-sweet taste. There is always a hard and inedible black seed in the middle. If the skin looks mouldy or mushy, the fruit inside may be overripe. When the skin has more moisture content and is more tender, the fruit becomes less convenient to peel.
Tips for Eating Longans:
- Wash the longans before eating them as quite some dirt can settle on their outside skin.
- There are several ways to open a longan:
- You can take a light bite on the fruit, just enough so the shell cracks open (almost in half). Then squeeze the fruit out of its shell.
- You can dig your fingernail (or the tip of a vegetable knife) next to the stem and peel off the skin.
- You can pop the whole fruit in your mouth and then spit out the seed. Or you can cut the fruit in half and remove the seed manually.
Did You Know?
- In traditional Chinese medicine, longan is used as a tonic for the heart, to improve eye function, and to help with insomnia.
- Though longans are thought to give internal ‘heat’ in Chinese medicine, canned longans are great for ice popsicles to beat the summer heat.
- Dried longan has a darker colour. Quality dried longans have a nice yellow colour, while secondary quality ones have a dark brown-yellow colour.
- Red dates and (dried) longan tea is a popular winter drink to boost your blood circulation and warm you up on winter days.
To have a closer look at this longan fruit and learn how it tastes like, Emmy has tried them for you.