Lychees au Naturel
Submitted by: Barbara Zurer Pearson (UMass, Amherst)
Story behind this Recipe:
This "recipe" was written in 1996 when I first heard about a Linguist List Cookbook (remember Theta Rolls?). It has spent the intervening 6 years on an abandoned website somewhere in the ether around the University of Miami. I have since moved from south Florida to Western Mass, which has many advantages, but access to fresh lychees is not one of them. I thought linguists and Linguist Listees--more than other professions, perhaps--would appreciate some advice on an exotic fruit. The lychee is pretty exotic, but it also finds its way into supermarkets and Chinese markets in North America at least, and they are often poorly handled, so many people may have little experience with them. Here are some reflections from a "maven." If you have access to fresh lychees, no preparation is required or recommended. These subtropical fruits grow inconsistently, but in profusion on huge trees in our south Florida neighborhood. They ripen all at once, usually in a two-week period between mid-June and mid-July. If you happen to go out of town during that time, you're out of luck until the next year. When you catch it right, you've got to eat them fast.Lychees are the size of a small apricot, often compared to a grape in texture, with a bright red, armorlike shell that peels off in one piece. Beware of fruits with brown shells, although a few dark spots on a red ground are usually not a problem. Different varieties, and different branches even of the same tree, have different sized pits, from big stones that leave room for only a thin veneer of flesh around them to tiny little spikes surrounded by big bites of succulent fruit. One must take care in eating the fruit to avoid the top of the seed, which can be quite astringent. Lychees require good finger dexterity; they resist being eaten with any utensil.
They are prized for sweetness, to the degree that certain Chinese restaurants here will buy them only from the west side of the tree, the
ones that get more sun. I like the "eastern" ones, too, which produce a slightly more acid flavor. The sweet, aromatic, almost perfumed taste of
the lychee is so delicate that it does not bear processing of any kind. Too long in the refrigerator and they get a slightly onion-y flavor.
Drying them, as the Chinese do, makes them musty, further from the fresh fruit than the raisin from the grape. In my opinion, canning is an
abomination. Sugar and heat are just what lychees do not need.No, my recommendation is to eat lychees on the day they are harvested,
several pounds at a sitting. When that is not possible, I resort to freezing them, thus the basis for their possible inclusion in a cookbook.
They can be successfully frozen either peeled or in their shells, although it is easier to remove the shell when they are fresh. If they are stored
without the peel, they must be eaten sooner, as they will inevitably absorb some of the taste of their wrapping. (I recommend plastic zip-lock
bags.) Either way, I freeze them with the seeds as I can't imagine the labor to remove them and have no knowledge of a gadget for the purpose.
The secret in eating frozen lychees (as with most frozen fruits) is to eat them when they are still partly frozen.So, prepare to get sticky up to the elbows, and enjoy.

--Barbara Pearson, South Miami, Florida (11/96)

Ingredients:
Lychees, fresh from the tree
Units: US
Serves: 1
Cooking Instructions:
If you have access to fresh lychees, no preparation is required or recommended. My first principle is to eat lychees on the day they are harvested, several pounds at a sitting.
When that is not possible, I resort to freezing them, thus the basis for their possible inclusion in a cookbook. They can be successfully frozen either peeled or in their shells, although it is easier to remove the shell when they are fresh. If they are stored without the peel, they must be eaten sooner, as they will inevitably absorb some of the taste of their wrapping. (I recommend plastic zip-lock bags.) Either way, I freeze them with the seeds as I can't imagine the labor to remove them and have no knowledge of a gadget for the purpose.
The secret in eating frozen lychees (as with most frozen fruits) is to eat them when they are still partly frozen.