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Legendary Litchi

Botanical name: Litchi chinensis
The exotic litchi fruit is from the soapberry family. The evergreen trees they grow on can reach 100 feet, and produce red or pale orange fruits with a tough, “bumpy,” easily peeled skin resembling large raspberries. Each contains white flesh and a single, large, inedible seed, which makes this fruit a drupe. Litchi is juicy with a distinctive, slightly acidic fragrance and flavour, comparable to grapes.

With the first mention found in Chinese literature circa 1059 A.D., ensuing centuries took litchi production from Burma in the 1600s to India a century later, the West Indies in 1775, and to French and English greenhouses by the 19th century. Because it does best in warm, humid climates, litchi thrived in Hawaii, Florida, and then California in the latter years of the 1800s. Litchis are an international fruit now, from Australia to Brazil, Burma to Africa.

Litchi yields can be pretty impressive, with the average 5-year-old tree in India producing 500 fruits, and a 20-year-old tree 4,000 to 5,000 fruits. One in Florida produced a record 1,200 tons of litchi in a year. There seems to be an important differentiation between two types: those leaking juice and those that don’t, as well as the appearance of the seed. A narrow “chicken tongue” seed may mean a tougher, almost nut-like flesh. Litchis keep well, offering perhaps better-than-fresh quality after a few weeks of storage. They turn brown, which sometimes indicates increased sweetness.

Dried litchis are larger but similar to raisins, and a prized delicacy in some countries. Sealed well, they can be stored for as long as a year. Fresh or dried, litchis can be chopped into fruit or green salads. Stuffed litchis are popular with cream cheese and nuts. But like other little-known fruits, litchi is being exploited by interests hoping to make good on this super-fruit by turning it into a high-cost supplement drink or capsule. The best way to get the best of the fruit is to simply eat it.

Health Benefits of Litchi
Ancient Chinese legend has it that dedication to the health benefits of litchi prompted the consumption of several hundred litchis per day. The results of this practice aren’t reported. But there is medical proof that litchis can relieve coughing, ease abdominal pain, and have a positive effect on tumours and swollen glands. The seeds are prescribed for testicular inflammation and neuralgia pain. Tea made from litchi peelings is said to cure smallpox and diarrhoea. In India, the seeds are ground to make tea for stomach trouble. Parts of the bark, root, and litchi flowers are gargled for sore throat.

Litchi is rich in dietary fibre to help maintain optimum regularity and a healthy weight. One of this fruit’s most plentiful and unique nutrients is oligonol, which contains a number of valuable antioxidants with the ability to fight flu viruses, improve blood flow, and protect the skin from UV rays. Litchi is loaded with vitamin C, providing 119% of the recommended daily value in one serving. This further protects against colds and other infections, helps the body develop resistance, and fights inflammation.

Other nutritive ingredients in litchi include high levels of B vitamins, such as vitamin B6, as well as potassium (which helps help control heart rate and blood pressure and stave off strokes and heart disease), thiamin, niacin, folate, and copper (which produces red blood cells, maintain healthy bones, prevent thyroid problems, and anaemia). All these are vital for maintaining carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolisation. However, consume litchis in moderation because they contain fructose, which may be harmful to your health in excessive amounts.
Note: There have been reports of allergies associated with eating litchi fruit
Studies on Litchi
Scientists studied litchi fruits, known to possess rich amounts of flavonoids, polyphenols, and proanthocyanidins. Litchi seeds are proven to inhibit breast and liver cancer cell growth.

Because litchi extracts hadn’t been tested on colorectal cancer, a new study was undertaken to examine its effects on the proliferation, cell cycle, and cell death of two colorectal cancer cell lines. The result: significantly increased colorectal cancer cell death and arrested cell cycle in vitro, evidence that litchi extracts can be considered a potential chemopreventive agent for colorectal cancer 1. Litchi extract also demonstrated significant inhibition of hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer, in vitro and in vivo, altering proliferation and inducing cell death in this cancer type 2.
Litchi Fun Facts
When Emperor Wu Ti of the Han Dynasty conquered the Southern capital of Canton (Guangdong), he was introduced to the juicy, flavourful “laichi” fruit. He loved it so much that he ordered 500 trees to be planted, but they all died in the frigid northern temperatures. He tried it again with similar results. He then remedied his taste for the fruits by demanding them to be paid as tribute. Later, mature trees were transported and carefully tended for a successful crop.

Litchi skin is reddish and easy to peel, revealing a white, somewhat translucent flesh.

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