Longan Fruit - The Eye of the Dragon
Dimacarpus longan is a unique little tropical fruit that has gained popularity in the US. Related to lychee, it's one of the soapberry fruits. Heh, soap and berry don't seem like good bedfellows, but folks gobble these up.
The Eye of the Dragon
Longan literally means "dragon eye", which one can imagine once you see the flesh. Fruit is about the size of a large cherry (1" or 2cm+) with a paper-thin shell around it. The shell surrounds and is against the flesh, but not really attached. Inside the flesh is a dark pit, less than centimeter in diameter. The pit is attached to the shell at the stem connection.
I've heard people say that you can just squeeze these and pop them out of the shell. Perhaps mine were a little over-ripe in that regard, because the skin was slightly soft and didn't want to crack. But once it was cut a little, I could squeeze them out.
I have yet to taste the lychee, but others have compared the longan to it as being a bit drier and not as intense. They can be eaten raw, cooked into desserts and are favored dried by many, especially in Chinese cuisine.
Grow Your Own
The trees can get over 20' in height, so are medium sized. They're evergreens that can just barely handle a freeze. If you live in an area that gets hard freezes, longan likely won't make it through the winter. Of course, you can try to harden them off and push that limit, but choose your location carefully. Of course, you can keep them small by trimming them and keeping them in a container.
They originate in the northern India region, though there is debate as to whether more on the Burma or China side. Indians call the fruit "pichu". It seems that seed growing is best, covering them with about an inch of soil. You should see the sprout within a couple of weeks. If you grow it in a controlled location for later transplant, transplant in the winter (in warmer climates) or just after what should be your coldest temperatures in colder climate. If you have frost dates, again, it's likely going to be very difficult to maintain this tree.
Do what you can to plant it in the hottest part of your yard. They can take the heat, as long as they have enough water. But be aware that they don't handle soggy soil either, and will die from root rot if kept wet.
Well draining soil is best, and make sure to include some mulch around the base to hold moisture, increase nutrients, promote soil biology and keep weeds away from the trunk. Don't pile mulch against the trunk though, since it can hold too much moisture there and cause rotting. An exception may be in super arid areas.
I have some seeds here, so will put them in the ground. But I really don't expect them to handle our winters, which generally get a couple of hard freezes. But, who knows? Maybe I'll pull one off. As I said in the video, I have the seeds anyway, right?