The luscious summer fruit you never knew you needed
In Australia in the ‘early days’, lychees were purchased in cans and were considered a most exotic fruit, if they were even heard of.
Nowadays, 12% of Australian households regularly purchase lychees from the supply chain. Total production in Australia is just over 2,700 tonnes.
Ranging in size from a macadamia to a golf ball, lychees are like a crisp, watery berry. The fruit has a sweet, strong aroma and the flavour is clean and fresh. Some say it tastes something like strawberry and watermelon, while others taste citrus and rose water. The peel is slightly leathery and easy to remove.
Lychees originate from southern China and were brought to Australia more than 100 years ago by Chinese goldminers. Although they can be grown in northern New South Wales, they are a tropical fruit, 99% are grown in Queensland, including tropical Far North Queensland, Central Queensland, South East Queensland and Northern NSW.
Lychees can be difficult to grow and yield consistently. Trees take three to five years to come into production, and will not produce substantial crops until year six or eight. They require regular control measures for pests and are tempting to birds and flying foxes if not netted. The fruit only ripen on the tree and have a short shelf-life without refrigeration.
Australia has the longest lychee production season in the world producing fruit from late October to late March, and once ripe the bunches of fruit are harvested by hand and further sorted in the packing shed. However the actual harvest season is short, sometimes no more than 2-3 weeks on one farm. Work is generally available throughout the regional harvest period.
In the spirit of celebrating the luscious lychee and the impending festive season … here is the recipe for ‘Oriental Funk Stew’, courtesy of the Australian Lychee Growers Association. It is a tempting sounding cocktail that will pair well with Smoked Chicken and Lychee salad this Christmas!
Australian Lychee Growers Association
HIA Lychee Fund Annual Report 2019-20