Longin' For Longan


What a unique taste the luscious Longan has! Sort of smokey and exotic, with lashings of juice. A kind of Lychee with attitude. 
 The Longan is native to Southern China and Thailand. Longans will grow in the Tropics and Sub-tropics in areas where their cousins the Lychee and Rambutan also flourish. 
 Longans will withstand lower temperatures than the lychee however, and will grow happily in areas where it is too cool for the lychee. The Longan is a modest little fruit, it certainly does not catch the eye in the same way as the brazen scarlet Rambutan and the Lychee. Both of whom , when ripe, are very easy to spot as they flaunt themselves amongst the green foliage of the trees. No, the Longan is a dusty, browny-yellow fruit which hangs in clusters from the parent tree. 
 What makes the Longan a standout for me is its very unusual smokey flavour. I have not tasted another fruit that is remotely similar in this respect. It packs all the juicy goodness of a Lychee but with a sophisticated hint of musky richness. My son, Cappi, loves them. He adored them from the first bite. Others tend to find the interesting flavour of the Longan an acquired taste. 
William F.Whitman, in his great work- 'Five Decades with Tropical Fruit', says that the Longan is an acquired taste and he grew to love it more and more over time. Eventually he became almost addicted to it. 
 I have to say that this is my experience also and I appreciate the Longan much more now than when I first tried it. A friend of mine made Longans the staple of her diet whilst travelling in Thailand. I think they are a fruit that would be so suitable for the Tropical Thai climate as they are so refreshing and juicy. 

 In England, last year, Cappi and I discovered dried Longans in a Chinese supermarket in Leicester. They were most delicious. The musky, smoky and slightly spicy taste was more concentrated and they had a very appealing chewy texture. However, I must admit that I prefer the Longan fresh. I think that the hydration power of fresh Longans combined with their sophisticated flavour is a real winner! 
 The name for the Longan in Chinese is Lung-yen, which translates as 'Dragon's Eye'; an fitting name for such an exotic and magical fruit. Less romantically, the Longan is also often referred to as 'The Poor Man's Lychee'. A little unfair, as I think the two fruits have very different characteristics. Also the Longan, as mentioned before, is more of an acquired taste. 

 I have also found the Longan referred to botanically as:- Nephelium longana Dimocarpus longan and Euphoria longana. I like the last name, it has a hint of the euphoric about it. N. longana tends to be an older nomenclature. I would definitely recommend the Longan as an interesting, refreshing and most delightful fruit.

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