Longan: Delicious Healthy Tropical Fruit
Longan Fruit: You can't just eat one.
Fruit stalls are a common sight in Singapore. The choices are staggering. Large and gruff jackfruit, kiwi-like alike chikus, shocking pink dragon fruit with whiskers, rambutans with hairs (hence the name, red hairy fruit), soursop with spikes and the formidable thorny durians with a smell to match. Where do I stop? Mangosteen, buarukoo (I don’t even the proper name for this fruit), blushing lycees , and the frightfully bitter noni fruit. All vying for attention, all screaming, “Pick me!”
Invariably, I bend over and pick LONGANS.
I know, Lycee has a far better reputation, in terms of size or taste and longan is often referred to as the “little brother of lycee.” It even has a little pet name, “li-chihnu,” meaning “slave of lychee.” But since I’m always a fan of the underdog and the unrepresented, I go for longan instinctively.
But more than empathy, I think longan has a more interesting flavor-- smoky and sulky and delightfully succulent.
Fruits Stands with an amazing selection of fruits in Asia.
If you have not seen a longan before, it looks like a little round globe (half to one inch in diameter), with yellow-brown to reddish-brown skin, which yields easily when peeled. Inside is a translucent almost whitish flesh encasing a black or brown seed. It resembles an eye-ball, hence the name “pinyin,” or dragon’s eye.
But don’t let the eye scare you, the flesh is delicious and comes off easily—just pop it in your mouth. But if you think that defy proper manners, use a knife to dislodge flesh instead.
They are often sold in bunches or in cute wicker baskets, lined with leaves to protect these gems.
For more scientific details, read:
Longan is indigenous to Southern China, found growing in high elevations between 500 to 1,500 feet on the provinces of Kwangtung, Kwangsi, Schezwan and Fukien. These tall trees, often growing up to a height of 50 feet were introduced to India in 1798. However, Indian literature adverted to the fact that Longan is not only native to China but to southwestern India and the forests of upper Assam and the Garo hills as well. Presently, longan trees can be found in Thailand, Cambodia, Philippines, even Malaysia and the Philippines.
In 1903, Longan trees from southern China were introduced to Florida by the United States of Agriculture. Although they flourished in a few locations, they never became popular. But from my sightings of the longan fruits at the Asian markets of late, I suspect the popularity will grow.
Longans grow in bunches.
They may be little in size but they pack a punch in terms of nutrition. Check out the nutritional profile:
Nutrients Value per 100g
Protein 1.31 g
Fat (Lipid) 0.10 g
Carbohydrates 15.15 g
Magnesium 10 g
Potassium 266 g
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) 65 g
Iron 0.13 g Riboflavin 0.150 g
Niacin 0.300 g
The Chinese has a long history of using longan (particularly the dried forms) for medicinal purposes and they feature prominently in Chinese desserts herbal soups. Although these traditional cures are not scientifically proven, they remain an important part of Asian traditional medicine.
- The flesh of longan is a remedy for stomachache, helps to reduce fever, kill parasites in the intestines and is generally regarded as an antidote for poison.
- The fruit invigorates the heart and spleen and has a calming effect on the nervous system.
- The dried flesh is used as a tonic in herbal soups or desserts to treat insomnia and neurasthenic neurosis.
- The pulverized kernel of the fruit contains saponin, tannin and fat which is effective in stopping hemorrhage or the flow of blood.
- In Vietnam, the seed is often used as an antiseptic for snakebite.
Almond Jelly with longans.
Longans are best eaten fresh. The fresh can be added to dessert or juice to make a popular drink, called, Longan drink (what else?). Fresh longans will stay fresh when refrigerate anywhere from 5 to 7 days, in some cases, longer.
Canned longans can be found in Asian supermarket and these make good fruit salads, desserts and they can also be added to Chinese dishes.
The flesh of longans are dried to induce longer shelf life. They should be kept in airtight jars in a cool place.
For recipes using longans, check these out: