I love the fragrance of lychees but I must admit that I find their texture a little strange, which is odd as it's a bit similar to the inside of a grape and I love grapes! Lychees are a member of the Soapberry family and are native to low elevations of the provinces of Kwangtung and Fukien in southern China, where they flourish along rivers and near the sea coast. Earliest records of Lychees in Chinese literature date from 1059 AD.
The Chinese consider the Lychee a symbol of romance and love. Legend has it that Lychees were the favourite fruit of the Emperor Li Longji's favourite concubine so he ordered a pony express to send the fruit Guangdong to the capital for her. Wild Lychee trees still grow in rainforest in Guangdong province to this day.
Late in the 17th Century, Lychees were carried to Burma and, 100 years later, to India. They arrived in the West Indies in 1775, was being planted in greenhouses in England and France early in the 19th Century, and Europeans took Lychees to the East Indies.
They are the most popular fruit in China and other Asian countries where they are typically eaten for dessert and used in a variety of snacks. Lychees can be used to top meats like ham to add flavour and sweetness. Lychee juice can be frozen to make sherbet and whole lychees can be spooned over ice cream. They bake well and can be incorporated into cakes, breads, and puddings. Lychees can also be dried naturally by the sun or in an oven. The fruit dries down to look and taste like a raisin or date. Dried lychees are often used in China to sweeten tea or as an after-dinner sweet. Lychees may also be pickled, added to a stir-fry or fermented to make Lychee wine.
In China Lychee wine is a full bodied dessert wine which has a golden colour and rich, sweet taste. It is usually served ice cold, either straight up or on the rocks with food. Lychee wine is believed to pair better with shellfish and Asian cuisine than with heavier meat dishes.
I read a while back that a couple in Florida are using wine made at Schnebly Redland’s Winery (www.schneblywinery.com) are embracing Florida's agricultural strengths by making wine from fruits such as carambola and lychee that won't grow in cooler climates. The Schneblys started selling their wine in 2005 to cut the waste from their tropical fruit orchards. They now farm about 100 acres in the Redland area west of Homestead. Their Lychee wine is not a dessert one but is comparable to a Riesling. They gave quite a few interesting wines on offer – including one made from Avocado!