A Leap Of Taste

Make sure he tries the lychee, he tells the mother. It’s the strange fruit on the platter, the one no one knows about.

And sure enough, in the audience, hands go up, followed by voice questions, “What was that fruit, that white one?”

Lychee fruit, he tells them. More than 30 kinds, the fruit originated in China, now Israel is the largest producer. High in vitamin C, with a bumpy, papery, red skin that peels away to a soft white flesh.

Enough of the same fruits year-round. He’s looking for something different. A new taste on the tongue, more flavor, variety. Something unusual. Satisfying. Delicious.

He remembers when he was younger and the only place he could find lychees was the Chinese restaurant. And no one ordered them. But he knew the sweet, pearly softness, the way its taste reminded him of places he’d never been. And now he knows that this fruit in particular softens the taste buds; lychee-flavored lollipops soothe the taste buds and queasy stomach of chemotherapy patients.

A gem, this little bud that doesn’t grow anywhere nearby. That alone is part of its allure – that he can obtain it, that he can tempt taste buds with a new flavor, introduce his customers to a far-off fruit, expand their culinary horizons.
He answers questions, he shakes hands, he conveys information.

And as he does so in the evening in his small part of the world, somewhere else it is daylight and someone is in a field, picking the alligator-strawberry ovals off shiny green leaves, dropping them in a bucket.

Lychee or litchi or laichi or lichu, the only member of the genus litchi in the soapberry family. Grown on trees in tropical locations where summers are humid and winters are short. The trees grow slow and tall, as high as 35 feet, evergreens with fruit in clusters.

When ripe, the fruit is small – no more than an inch and a half long. Small, succulent, a burst of flavor on the tongue.

You can find them at Hiller’s.


Comments

A Leap Of Taste — 1 Comment

  1. Greetings, Lychees!!! YES, they are great! I was introduced to them while living in London, UK, 50 years ago as an au-pair. I love them and until a few years ago could only get them in cans. While on a trip to China 11 years ago they were offered at the breakfast buffet- I was in heaven. Many of the tourists in my group were wondering what got me so excited when I spotted the big bowl and helped myself to a nice portion every morning. I just asked at the Chinese Buffet here in Livonia about them but got a negative answer. Your nice article tells us all kind of positive things about this ‘strange’ fruit, more reason to buy it again. Strangely enough, while in China in October 2004, we could not find any fresh ones, were told that they are only available in spring. Your article tells us otherwise.
    I love to shop at your store on Haggerty, and used to come to the other one on 6 Miles years ago. Thank you also for getting Schaller and Weber German style coldcuts, esp. Gelbwurst, which you ordered after I spotted other S&W ‘wurst’, I hope others will find it, we grew up with it. Granted, it is not cheap, but cheaper to buy at Hiller’s than to drive to the east side. Thanks again and keep up the great service you provide and best wishes.

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