Delicious and juicy, litchi or lychee heralds the arrival of summer. Fresh litchis are available in markets from July to October. The fruit must be allowed to ripen fully on the tree itself, since it stops ripening once plucked. Over maturity makes the fruit turn dark brown and lose lustre and flavour.
Litchis are low in calories, contain no saturated fats or cholesterol and are rich in dietary fibre, important for those concerned about their body weight.
Litchis, like citrus fruits, are an excellent source of Vitamin C and contain approximately 40 per cent more Vitamin C than orange; nine Litchi fruits would meet an adult's daily recommended Vitamin C requirement. Consumption of foods rich in Vitamin C helps the body develop resistance.
The fruit is also a good source of B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, niacin and foliates. These vitamins help the body metabolise carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Litchi also contains minerals such as potassium and copper in abundance. Potassium in an important component of cell and body fluids, and helps control heart rate and blood pressure, offering protection against stroke and coronary heart diseases. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells.
Litchi also has high levels of beta carotene, in fact, greater than the percentage found in carrots. It is also considered a diuretic and digestive.
Ways to serve
Eat it fresh, slice it up for fruit salads and dressings, drink it as a juice, or use it in jellies, sauces and syrups.
Now, for a recipe.
Litchi Crème Brule
Egg Yolks: 8
Sugar: 210 gm
Fresh Cream: 800 ml
Milk: 300 ml
Tinned litchi: 300 gm
Mix together fresh cream and milk and place over gentle heat. When it comes to a boil, remove from flame.
Mix eggs and sugar till the sugar dissolves. Do not whisk.
Add the egg mixture to the warm cream and milk mixture. Mix well.
Chop the tinned litchis and add to the mixture.
Pour the mixture into oven-proof bowls and place on a baking tray. Pour water into the tray till it reaches 1/4th the height of the bowls.
Bake at 150 C for 35 to 40 minutes.
Remove, and cool. Sprinkle some sugar on top and burn with a torch till the sugar caramelises. Serve.
Chef de Partie, Taj Connemara