About the Longan
The longan, also known as Dragon Eyes, is a tropical and subtropical tree with evergreen leaves identifiable by their large size and green colour. This tree can grow to more than 60 ft (20 m). It is similar to the lychee tree in appearance, but more cold-tolerant. Fruit leaves are burgundy red-coloured, turning into a dark green shade in time. Flowers are yellow and the extracted honey can be really sweet.
The fruit grows in oval-shaped trusses. The skin is smooth, thin and orange-coloured, turning into brown just one day after picked. The fruit is covered with little bulges, but less protruding than lychee’s.
The flesh is as aromatic as lychee’s. It is translucent white, juicy and sweet, with a nice, but slightly acid taste and a nutty flavour. The flesh surrounds a round, black-and-bright seed with a white spot, giving it an eye-like appearance. The seed size depends on the fruit variety.
How to preserve and consume longans
Longans are less perishable than lychees because they have more firm husks. The ripe fruit can be refrigerated so it can be consumed for several days. The best way to preserve this fruit is inside a perforated bag in the fridge. The husk is thinner than lychee’s (hence is easier to peel off) and the seed is not edible.
The fruit is mainly consumed out of hand raw, but it can also be used in salads (both sweet and salty) or accompanying rice and vegetable dishes. Besides, it is relatively easy to can and it is also used as an ingredient in many juices and liquors.
Nutritional properties of the longans
|LONGAN NUTRITION FACTS – 100 G|
|TOTAL FAT||0.1 g – 0%|
|CHOLESTEROL||0 mg – 0%|
|TOTAL CARBOHYDRATE||15.14 g – 5%|
|DIETARY FIBER||1.1 g – 4%|
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Health benefits of the longan
- In traditional Chinese medicine, longans are used as a tonic for maintaining a good heart health, relieving stress and increasing the skin beauty.
- They are also used to boost your memory, and they are known to have calming and relaxing effects.
- The vitamin A is very good for regenerating tissues, bones and muscles, as well as for the eyesight.
- This is a low-fat fruit with almost no calories, which makes it ideal in loss weight diets. It improves blood circulation and increases the absorption of iron, so it is recommended for people with a tendency to anemia.
The longan has many varieties, but not all of them are available in the market due to its production being irregular. Some of these varieties are:
- Biew Kiew: this variety of longan is native to Thailand. It is of late harvesting, but very productive and with a top quality fruit.
- River Diamond: variety also native to Thailand. Medium-sized fruit of good quality.
- Kohala: this variety is native to Hawaii. Medium-sized fruit with nice flavour.
- Sri Chompoo: large-sized variety of excellent taste and quality.
- Wu Yuan: variety of small-sized longans of bitter taste. It is mainly used in the canning industry.
Curious facts about longans
- The seeds contain saponin, an ingredient to make shampoo.
- Longan means ‘dragon eye’ in Chinese. This fruit owes the name to its close resemblance to an eyeball when peeled off.
- Another reason for ‘dragon eye’ is that it has a dark brown seed with a white spot in the middle, giving it an eye-like appearance.
- It is a common belief that longans beautify women and increase their sexual appetite.
- Thanks to its climate, the Axarquía (Málaga) is the only region in Europe where longans can be cultivated.
- Longans are the second most imported fruit by China, totalling 603,000 tons/year. But the biggest importer of this fruit, bigger even than the Asian giant, is Thailand.