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Litchi Love Affair 01/18/11

Enjoy fresh litchis, a tantalising litchi salad and an interesting Vietnamese dessert.

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Don't miss out on taking advantage of the litchi season.

Summer is a time for fresh ideas and fresh fruit like delicious, home grown litchis. Bursting with flavour and succulently sweet, juicy litchis epitomise the South African summer. South African litchis are available from October to March, with production peaking in the height of summer over November and January. Litchis are a source of vitamin C and they’re naturally free from saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.

Litchis are also a key ingredient in a range of sweet and savoury dishes, due to their great taste and versatile nature. This is no surprise given that litchis have been around for centuries and played an interesting role in ancient folklore, Asian medicine and recent history.
It seems the litchi’s vivid, slightly heart-shaped appearance is probably the reason why the Chinese have always considered it a symbol of love and romance. In China, litchi seeds are also believed to have a pain relieving effect, and are often prescribed for nerve pain or orchitis (an inflammation of the testicles, usually caused by infection). A tea made with litchi skin is used for diarrhoea, while in India, throat ailments are sometimes treated by gargling with a solution made by boiling the roots, bark and flowers of the litchi tree.

Litchis have been around for centuries and one of their most famous fans was the Imperial Consort Lady Yang, who was a renowned beauty in ancient China.
Lady Yang lived during the Tang Dynasty and began her life at the royal court when she was made the wife of the Imperial Prince of Shou. The marriage did not last long, however, as she soon caught the attention of her father-in-law the reigning emperor Li Longji.

Because Lady Yang’s favourite fruit was litchis, the emperor had the fruit – which was only grown in southern China – delivered by the imperial messenger service’s fast horses, whose riders would take shifts day and night in a Pony Express-like manner, to get their precious cargo to the capital.

Alas, Lady Yang suffered a tragic death when the emperor ordered her to commit suicide. But her love affair turned her into a significant historical figure whose love for litchis remains legendary.

Luscious Litchi Recipe Ideas
Litchi, pawpaw, avocado & rocket salad with char grilled limes and sweet chilli dressing
Serves 2


  • 1 large pawpaw, sliced
  • 12 litchis, peeled & pitted
  • 2 avocados, peeled and sliced
  • 50 g rocket
  • 2  limes, quartered
  • 1  chilli to garnish

Dressing ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons x brown sugar
  • 50 ml lime juice
  • 100 ml sweet chilli sauce
  • 30 g mint leaves chopped

1. Arrange the salad on a platter.
2. Combine the dressing ingredients and mix well.
3. Pour dressing over salad and serve immediately

Litchi and Ginger Ice
Refreshing Vietnamese dessert
Serves 4


  • 100 g litchis on syrup
  • 15 g ginger, peeled and grated
  • 150 ml water
  • Mint leaf for garnish
  • Litchis for garnish


  • Place litchis in a blender or food processor together with the ginger and water.
  • Process to a fine puree.
  • Pour the mixture into a 23 cm square baking tin and place in freezer for 3 hours –
  • or until frozen.
  • Break the iced mixture into chunks and process again until slushy.
  • Return to the baking tin and freeze once more until solid.
  • Allow the mixture to soften lightly (about 5 minutes) and scoop into 4 champagne
  • glasses or rice bowls.
  • Garnish with mint leaves and litchis.

Copy courtesy of the South African Litchi Growers Association

Litchi Love Affair, 8.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
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Laura Cooke is the editor and creator of the Veggie Bunch website and community.

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