The longan, or Dimocarpus longan, is a type of tropical tree that bears edible fruit. It belongs to the Sapindaceae family, which also includes the lychee and the rambutan, and is one of the most well-known tropical members. The longan’s fruit is comparable to the lychee’s, although it has a milder flavor. It is only found in tropical Asia and China as a naturalized species. And it’s thought to have come from somewhere in the borderlands of Myanmar and China’s southern coast. The longan’s name translates to “dragon eye” in Cantonese. The fruit resembles an eyeball when the shell is removed. Although this may deter you from trying them, don’t let it.
200 BC! That’s the earliest known origin of this fruit, according to historical sources at least.
It’s known as “dragon’s eye” because of the appearance of the black seed after it’s been peeled. In terms of size and feel, they resemble grapes. Longan has a sweet, somewhat tangy, and flowery taste profile. Some people even say it has a musky smell to it.
Most fruits, including longan, are abundant in vitamin C, which is one reason for their importance in a healthy diet. Longan has nearly all of a day’s worth of calories in one dish. The distinct flavor and look of longan may pique your interest, causing you to overindulge in other fruits. Eating a wide array of fruits, say, nutritionists, provides you with a diverse range of nutrients.
Longan vs. Lychee vs. Rambutan
As the three share common ancestors, they also share several common traits, and the people who don’t understand the differences often lump all three together. But there are certain characteristic differences that can help you identify which one a Longan is from a box containing all three.
As with lychee, longan hails from Southeast Asia and is also a soapberry relative. As an olive, longan is smaller than lychee and has a peel that must be removed before it can be eaten. The longan fruit’s seed, like that of the lychee, is poisonous when eaten. Lychee and longan taste and feel similar, although longan is characterized as jelly-like and tarter than lychee.
The rambutan, at about the size of a golf ball, is the biggest of the three fruits. The rambutan’s most distinctive characteristic is a prong-like projection from the shell that resembles hair. It is possible for these “hairs” to be varied shades of red, yellow, or even a vivid green.
The shell’s color is often red, although it can also include yellow flecks.
The white flesh of the rambutan is both florally sweet and creamy in texture.
Like lychees, rambutans have edible flesh and an inedible seed. It tastes like a cross between grape and strawberry. Lychee is sweeter, but this fruit is also less acidic.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common Longan varieties. It’s important to note that these are some of the most commonly available commercial varieties of the Longan fruit around the globe (though a lot of them are from Thailand). The actual range of varieties might be quite extensive. The FAO recognizes about twenty varieties from Asia alone, but there is relatively little commercial documentation about them.
Longan cultivars are in the hundreds, but approximately 30 to 40 are commercially farmed worldwide. Longan’s biggest production challenge is finding reliable bearings. ‘Kohala’ is planted on 99 percent of Florida’s land. The ‘Kohala’ is a dependable bloomer and fruiter in Florida. Air-layering makes it simple to grow more trees from seed. The ‘Kohala’ fruit has a pale color and thin skin. It’s huge, sweet-spicy smelling, and flavorful. Arils may be recovered at a high proportion from fruit. Trees with air layers begin yielding fruit at a young age, and a three-year-old tree can produce as much as 10 kg of fruit. To get a huge fruit, the flower panicle is often cut to around two-thirds of its original size.
The commercial and home garden cultivar in Florida is named ‘Kohala,’ after a Hawai’ian selection; consistent yields of big, sweet-tasting fruit of high quality are among the advantages of this variety. The majority of growers think that the finest commercial cultivar is still ‘Kohala.’ The fruit is ready to eat when it’s still young, which is around the beginning of July.
Hawaii’s Kohala Longan tree produces a sweet butterscotch-flavored fruit that is juicier, sweeter, and bigger than a conventional Longan’s, with fewer seeds per fruit.
Wu’ Yuan Longan
Wu Yuan (Black Round) is an important Guangdong longan cultivar as well. The fruit weighs around 15 g and has a big seed and an aril that is tender and juicy but not exceptional in quality. The yield is high, and the TSS value is in the range of 14 to 15%. Fresh or dried, the fruit’s flesh is soft and delicious and ideal for eating. Rootstock ‘Kao Yuan’ is commonly canned and regarded to be a somewhat superior form of this species. Seedlings are robust and hence valuable.
‘Wu Yuan’ seedlings, which are known as longan rootstocks because of their vigor, are commonly used for vegetative multiplication by inarching onto three to five-year-old seedlings.
Diamond River Longan
‘Diamond River’ is the name of a recently introduced cultivar. Originally from Thailand, this cultivar bears fruit annually, is precocious, and produces off-season as well as a substantial late-season harvest. The fruit quality, on the other hand, is mediocre, and the tree’s limbs are easily broken.
Because it looks like an eyeball when shelled (the black seed shows through the translucent skin like an iris/pupillary), the longan (from Cantonese lùhng-ngáahn, meaning “dragon eye”) earned its name. A tiny, hard seed with an enamel-like finish coat the plant’s whole surface.
The Diamond River longan fruit tree has long, brilliant green leaves with wavy margins and a wide leaf base. The fact that the Diamond River longan includes luxuriant trees is an additional benefit. Growth is more likely to spread out in a horizontal direction than an upward direction.
It’s a well-liked commercial selection. It yields huge, delicious fruit and keeps well once picked. Once again, this is a highly sought-after variety. Late-blooming and fruit harvest in late August to September characterize this late-maturing variety. Vegetables that have reached maturity are spherical and big, with a brownish-green hue, and have a high rate of aril recovery. Crunchy and flavorful (TSS of 22 percent), the aril is top-notch. Because the fruit’s skin is thick, it will keep for a longer period of time. This variety bears irregularly and is prone to witches’ broom problem. In the northern regions, where the chilly winter months are required for bloom induction, it is commonly planted.
An uncommon cultivar of longan, the fruit of the Kohala comes later in the season. The three of them stand around two feet tall.
Sri Chompoo Longan
This Thai cultivar has a crunchy texture and is one of the best. The fruit is huge, and the seed is little in this Thai variety. Thai people value longans highly since they are closely related to lychees. It’s hardier and grows faster than lychees.
A mid-season longan cultivar known as Chompoo or Sri-Chompoo is known as Sri-Chompoo. A medium-sized oval fruit with greenish-light brown skin covers the tree. Small, pink aril (flesh) surrounds a tiny seed, giving this plant its common name of ‘Chompoo,’ which translates as ‘pink.’ It has a sweet taste and a lovely scent. The variety is commonly found in Thailand’s northern districts, where the cold winters are ideal for blooming induction.
This cultivar’s main flaw, according to some, is an inconsistent cropping pattern brought on by poor blooming. However, given the Canary Islands’ cold subtropical climate, it is a common occurrence. The tree requires heavy fertilizer treatment and careful management to produce at a high level.
Haew is a tree that takes a long time to mature. Small seeds and medium to big size characterize the high-quality fruit. It bears every other year because it is a late fruiting variety, with flowers appearing in late January or early February and fruits ripening around the middle to end of August. There is an average recovery rate for fruits that are medium to large in size with little seeds.
Firm and tasty, the aril is a treat to consume. Because the fruit’s rind is hard and thick, it will keep for a longer time. This variety is easy to grow and yields a lot of fruit. It has a flaw in that it has a propensity of switching bearings. Canning is one option for these fruits. In the north, where the winters are cold, this variety is typically planted for blooming induction.
Ship’ I Longan (Or Snakeskin Longan)
Plants grown in Florida are quite huge, less flavorful, and arrive late in the season.
The largest fruit is from the ‘Snakeskin,’ which is around the size of tiny lychee and elongated. Rough peel, huge seed, considerable juice between rind and meat, and poor quality define this fruit. The sole benefit is that it is late in the growing season.
Several Longan varieties have entered the global market, but not all fruits are suitable for all different climates. In the US, few Asian cultivars have been popular, and the Hawaiian variety dominates. Similarly, it might not bear good fruit if we were to plant it in Africa. The main benefit of so many varieties is that the fruit is available in many different parts of the world and at different times of the year.