Longan, which literally means “Dragon Eye” in Chinese, is a fruit that is similar to a lychee in taste. The peeled fruit looks like an eyeball with its milky white flesh and a black pit in the middle. Visualize an almost white translucent cherry. The commercial Longan industry in the United States is still in its infancy stage, with less than 500 hectares of land being used for the commercial production of longan, and it is all centered in southern Florida.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Order: Sapindales
- Family: Sapindaceae
- Genus: Dimocarpus
- Species: D. longan
- Binomial name: Dimocarpus longan
- According to traditional medicine, the longan seed can be used to stop the bleeding and absorb the venom from a snake bite
- Growers in the United States are working on a “freestone” variety
- Longan is often confused with the lychee
- The recorded mention of the longan fruit was in 200BC in the Han Dynasty, China.
- The longan seed contains “Saponin,” an ingredient used in making shampoos.
Longan Buying Guide
Choose longans with dry and brown skin/shell. This makes them easier to peel. A moist shell will be rubbery and will make it tough to get to the fruit inside.
Tip: Look for longans that are still bunched together like grapes.
If bunched longans are not available, check the top part (where the fruit connects to the bunch) for mold. This is a sure sign that the longan is no longer fresh.
Longan Production & Farming in Texas
As of writing, there are no commercial longan farms in Texas. There have been attempts to grow the plant in Texas, but the climate isn’t suitable in certain areas.
Imported Longan has tested multiple times for both illegal and legal pesticide residue, so care should be taken when consuming longans. Check your local markets for locally grown longan, if possible.
The longan plant will grow in USDA plant hardiness zones 8-10. They prefer cool and dry winters. Too much rainfall during winter promotes tree and foliage growth but will inhibit flowering, which in turn will lead to fewer fruits.
Longans will thrive in light, sandy loam soil with a pH level of 5.5-6.0. The soil should also be well-drained as longans don’t do too well with “wet feet.”
The longan fruit is non-climacteric, meaning they will have to be picked from the tree when perfectly ripe. Care is taken not to detach the individual fruits from their bunch, as this will affect their long-term freshness.
The picked fruits are then sorted, and damaged, or deformed fruits are removed from the bunch before being boxed and cooled down for storage and transport.
Once the longan is removed from cooled storage, they start to degrade due to the high sugar content of the fruit.
To get to the flesh underneath the shell, you can squeeze the shell to lightly crack it and let the fruit slide out. Another method would be to use a small knife and make a small cut near the stem to create a tear in the shell.
Be careful of the seed inside the flesh, they’re as hard as a stone, and they can chip a tooth if you’re not careful.
Due to their high sugar content, longans should be stored inside the refrigerator. They can stay inside the fridge before they start to go bad.
Longans can be frozen with the skin on, and they last for up to a whole year in the freezer.
Longans are usually consumed raw, used as toppings for salads and desserts, and can be turned into juice.
Longans, the tasty and refreshing fruit with a unique flavor.
- Longan has higher carbohydrate and lower fiber levels than most other fruit.
- If you’re watching your carb intake, you should take it easy on the longans.
- The glycemic index for longan fruit is still currently unknown.
- Longans, when compared to other fruits, are low in fiber.
- Vitamins and minerals:
- While not particularly nutrient-dense, the longan fruit does contain high levels of vitamin C with a serving of longan, providing more than 100% of the RDI.