Delicious and juicy lychee or (Litchi) heralds you the arrival of summer. Besides being sweet and nutritious, these berries bring cooling effect on the human body to beat the scorching summer heat. Botanically, this exotic fruit belongs to the family of Sapindaceae, and named scientifically as (Litchi chinensis).
It is a slow growing, medium-sized evergreen tree with dense, round-topped foliage, and smooth, gray, brittle trunk and branches. It may reach 40-50 feet height. Litchis are not only eye-catching plant during spring when its huge spray of flowers adorn the tree but also a stunning sight for fruit lovers when its tree totally covered with beautiful berries.
In structure, the fruit is a drupe; oval, heart-shaped or nearly round, measures about 3–5 cm long and 3 cm in diameter and weigh about 10 g. In appearance, the fruit has close resemblances with longan and rambutan fruits.
Its outer skin is rough leathery rind or peel, featuring pink color. Its peel can be detached easily in the ripe berries. Inside, its flesh consists of edible portion or aril that is white, translucent, sweet, and juicy.
Litchi has sweet taste, and fragrant flavor that everyone from children to elderly delighted to savor. Its flesh envelopes around a single, glossy, brown seed, 2 cm long, and 1–1.5 cm in diameter. The seeds, as that in the case of sapodilla, are not poisonous but should not be eaten. Fresh lychees can be readily available in the markets from May to October, about 120-140 days after flowering.
Health and benefits of Lychee
- Lychee fruit contains 66 calories per 100 g, comparable to that in the table-grapes. It has no saturated fats or cholesterol, but composes of good amounts of dietary fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.
- Research studies suggest that oligonol, a low molecular weight polyphenol, is found abundantly in lychee fruit. Oligonol is thought to have anti-oxidant and anti-influenza virus actions. In addition, it helps improve blood flow to organs, reduce weight, and protect skin from harmful UV rays.
- Litchi, like citrus fruits, is an excellent source of vitamin C; 100 g fresh fruits provide 71.5 mg or 119% of daily-recommended value. Studies suggest that consumption of fruits rich in vitamin C helps human body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals.
- Further, it is a very good source of B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, and folates. These vitamins are essential since they function by acting as co-factors to help the body metabolize carbohydrates, protein, and fats.
- Litchi also carries a very good amount of minerals like potassium and copper. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids help control heart rate and blood pressure; thus, it offers protection against stroke and coronary heart diseases. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells.