What is it? Lychee is a type of fruit grown in warm, humid climates - subtropical, to be exact, according to Wikipedia. Originating in China, with a cultivation that is supposedly older than Jesus, the lychee tree is now grown commercially around the world, even here in Texas.
The white, translucent flesh of the lychee surrounds a large, inedible pit and is covered with a rough, deeply pink and bumpy skin that protects the delicate pulp. If you've never seen a fresh, unpeeled lychee before, it looks like something that an alien would use as a pod to grow its offspring...at least in my imagination.
What is it used for? The mild, sweet flavor and juiciness of the fruit make it a popular addition to cocktails. Lychee martinis made with muddled lychee pulp and various types of alcohol are popping up on bar menus everywhere. They are also used in desserts and eaten by themselves.
Lychees have been used in China for medicinal purposes. They are supposed to help in clearing up a cough and easing digestive issues and ulcers.
Where can you buy it in Houston? You can find lychees canned at any Asian grocery store in the city - and perhaps even in the ethnic sections of larger, mainstream grocery stores. For fresh lychees (which are currently in season), we suggest 99 Ranch Market or Super H Mart.
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Recipes: Lychee Granita - Courtesy of Seasaltwithfood blog