Longans


FUN FACTS

BNDimocarpus longan  AKA 龙眼 (lóng yǎn).  Longans are the second most imported fruit by China, but the biggest importer is Thailand.

CONSTITUENTS/ NUTRITION

Phenolic acids, flavonoids, polysaccharides.

USES/BENEFITS

(Disclaimer) One can find many scientific studies documenting the benefits of longans by searching for "Dimocarpus longan  phytochemicals".   Study has shown longan extracts have drug ability as anti- HIV-1 agents  by inhibiting viral enzymes.  Extracts from longan flowers have been shown to delay LDL oxidation.   Another study found petroleum extract of longan leaf to have significant anticancer effect on melanoma cancer cells.  NIH.gov study also found longan seed extracts to be anti-cancer cells.  Radicals-scavenging activity.   Antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant (ellagic, corilagin, gallic acids), anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic.

TYPES

Plant Family: Sapindaceae (soapberries) Genus: Dimocarpus Lour Species:  Dimocarpus longan Lour.  Longans seem to be a popular fruit to grow in Florida.  Click here for a list of the variety grown there.   They are rated by sweetness, fruit size and seed size.  The smaller the seed and larger the fruit, the higher the quality.


Top 3 Grown in the U.S.

Sri Chompoo  can be grown in all zones but you have to bring them indoors before temperatures drop below 40 degrees.  It needs little maintenance but does require a great deal of sunlight, so it should be placed by a window with plenty of light. It's native to Thailand.

Biew Kiew is another Thailand variety, but more suited for cooler winters.

 

Kohala Hawaiian longan first introduced to the United States in 1958.

 

PRODUCTS

Below are samples of the variety of longan products.  I think the best is fresh longan.  Dry longan is just as sweet, if not sweeter than fresh longans.  Just be careful because it's easy to overdose on dry ones since you can fit a handful in your mouth and it would be 20 or so longans at once.

GROWING

Longan can take up to 7 years to bear fruit from seed. Longans can be grown indoors in pots or outdoors.  I have not been able to find a good video on growing longans on Youtube.  Serveral talked about how to seed and some about how to harvest.  None showed how to grow from seed to tree.

Harvesting longan fruit in Cambodia

RECIPES

Ginger and longan soup for winter

I eat longans like I do berries, except I have to peel the longan.  I use dried longans in tea, soup, and I like to eat them like candy (be careful to not overdose because they are so delicious!  Adding longan to a tea is like adding a honey or sugar.  As you can see, longan sryup is pretty popular.

—Where to find them.

You can find longans (dried and fresh) at your local Chinese store (Austin store1 , store 2).  Be careful when you buy them from January to May because they are often previously frozen.  Previously frozen longans do not taste good.  Might as well get the dried ones during off season.  If you see longans with the stems still attached, it's a good sign they are fresh.  Longans should be plump and firm.  Longan season from Florida is between July and September.

—How to eat them.

Pick a longan

Peel fruit by digging nail into skin in the middle and pry apart in half.

Eat the sweet meat around the seed and spit out the seed.

EDITOR EXPERIENCE

—Childhood story 

I don't know if I enjoy growing plants because I grew up in a family of small farmers, or that it's just a natural leaning.  Since my sisters also enjoy growing plants, I'm going to assume it's environmental.  When I was 7 years old,  we were visiting our small village home in KaiPing, Goung Zhou province.  Our family had moved out to the city but we would visit on Chinese New Year because it was our ancestral home.  That year, longans were the dessert of choice.  I remembered them being heavenly sweet and had persistently badgered my father about growing.  Eventually, he relented and allowed me to take the seeds and buried them in our small plot of land.  He really did not expect them to grow as none of us were there to water them.  The next year we went back, several grew into small shrubs!  Then the years rolled together and we emigrated to the U.S. 3 years later.  Dad said the trees were still there, producing fruit, when they had to cut them down to build a larger ancestral home 14 years later.

Besides the scrumptious flavor of this fruit, this sweet memory is my special connection to longans.  I never knew of its benefits until I started researching for this post.

—Overdosed on dried longans

I bought a pack of dried longans for tea before I started this post.  I also had a sweet tooth that night and not thinking logically, I grabbed a couple of handful and ate them as snack.  Well, that night, I had a awful time falling asleep.  I thought I was having hot flashes.  I'm naturally cold oriented and I was burning up under my covers.  It was in the 30's outside!  I remembered my mother use to say that if you're cold, eat some longan.  Sure enough, longans are warming, and I must have eating 20-30 of them!  When they're dry, they pretty small and easy to munch on.  So be careful not to overdose like I did, or at least don't eat them right before bed.

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