When you first encounter lychee (or litchi, as it's also called in some parts of the world), you may be baffled. Its armoured skin looks like a distant cousin of the chestnut, a reddish-brown pine cone or even a round strawberry. But the surprise comes when you pierce the bumpy, red peel and discover translucent white, softly textured flesh with an exquisite, sweet fragrance.
Unlike many other fruits that can continue to ripen once they're picked from the tree, lychees will ferment and lose their delicate flavor if allowed to linger on the vine after harvest. So it's essential to choose ripe fruit. Look for fruit that's pinkish to reddish in color, with no green spots or areas of rot. Fresh lychees should be firm to the touch and emit an irresistible aroma that's both fruity and floral.
To get the most out of your lychee, start by washing them under running water. Then make a small incision on the side of the lychee with a knife.
Next, use your fingers to gently pry away the thin skin, which should come off easily in a few pieces. Be careful not to tear the inner membrane, which contains a brown pit that's also edible.
Once you've removed the skin, eat your lychee whole or add it to salads, yogurt bowls, desserts and ice pops. You can even use it to add sweetness to homemade cocktails or savory dishes, says McTernan. Lychee is rich in vitamin B2 and C, copper, and potassium and has been shown to lower cholesterol.