Longan (Dimocarpus longan) is a tropical fruit, originating from southern China. In Chinese, the name means ‘dragon’s eye’, a reference to the fruit’s white flesh and dark, perfectly round seed.
The longan fruit is small and round. The Longan’s exterior features pale brown skin, and the interior flesh is translucent and white. In the middle of the flesh, there is a dark brown or black seed. The seed should not be eaten.
Longan fruits boast a fair amount of dietary fiber, as well as Vitamin C and other essential nutrients. Traditional Chinese medicine has long looked to longans for various remedies.
According to the tenets of traditional Chinese medicine, longans are prescribed to help with the heart and eyes, as well as to cure insomnia.
They are grown on an evergreen tree that is part of the soapberry family, like its cousins rambutan and lychee. The trees grow to about 20 feet high, and their glossy dark green leaves are studded with clusters of longans.
Longan trees can only produce at higher, tropical temperatures. The fruit is quite delicate, so it is preferably harvested by hand, using knives and scissors.
Longans are mostly eaten fresh, although they are also used for cooking. Their fresh qualities make them perfect for fruit salads and other desserts, like sorbets and smoothies. They can be added to savory dishes as well, added to a stir-fry, or cooked in a soup.
For best results, they should be added just before serving to maintain the fruit’s best characteristics. In winter, the longan fruit is steeped to make tea, a popular beverage in Asia. The fruit can also be macerated in alcohol to make a popular liquor.
Nowadays, longans can be found fresh across the world when it is in season. Longan is also sold canned, although it loses much of its subtle flavor, and dried, although the flavor changes quite a bit.
To choose the best longan fruits, examine the exterior to make sure there is no mold. Squeeze the fruit lightly to make sure the skin is flush against the flesh, which means the fruit is perfectly ripe. If the flesh has reduced in size, the longans are beginning to move past their ripe point.
How do you eat longan?
To eat longan, take it in your hand and dig your nail into the exterior. Once you have pierced the skin, begin to peel it, like an orange. It should pull away from the insides easily.
To eat the fruit, you can either eat the whole fruit, and then spit out the seed, or you can slice it in half and remove the seed before eating.
What does longan taste like?
Longans have a fleshy fruit, with a slightly chewy mouthfeel. They are sweet and very juicy, without a pronounced unique taste with less flavor than its cousin the lychee.
The taste and eating experience is similar to having grape, although it does have a tart bite. The aftertaste is musky, with a light caramel hint. It can also be eaten dried.
The flavor of dried longan is almost chocolatey, and the flesh turns a yellow color. The taste of fresh longans is great for eating fresh, although it is also used in cooking.
When are longans in season?
Longan is a very seasonal fruit, difficult to grow outside of its established season. In Asia, the harvest season stretches from late June to late September, depending on the country.
In Australia, another area with longan production, the harvest is from mid-January to early April.
Eating longans can have some interesting health benefits:
- Longans can increase your immunity against colds and flu. Thanks to vitamin C, they help your immune system as well as bettering your skin’s health and iron absorption.
- Longan may help with cardiovascular health. It activates the circulation of the blood, which in turn stimulates the cardiovascular system. This can help to avoid heart attacks and strokes.
- Longan may help to slow signs of aging. Thanks to its vitamins and antioxidants, eating longans may help your skin stay to stay looking younger, and longer.
- Longan can help prevent anemia. For a fruit, longans have high iron content. This helps blood circulation and prevents blood-related diseases, like anemia.
- Longan can help with insomnia. The seeds of the longan fruit also have special health properties. In traditional Chinese medicine, the dried seeds are used as a sleep aid, a traditional treatment for insomnia.
5 x longan facts
1) The longan dates back at least to the Han Dynasty (200 BC). There are records of the ruler asking for lychee and longan trees in his palace gardens, but the trees did not survive.
2) Longan seed extract is a popular ingredient in massage creams.
3) The first record of longans in Europe was in 1790 by Joao de Loureiro, a Jesuit botanist.
4) In Vietnam, the seed of longans has long been used to treat a snake bite. It was believed that pressing it against the bite would absorb the venom.
5) Growers in the United States are hard at work to produce a stone-free variety of longans.
Is longan a ‘heaty’ fruit?
Yes, longan is considered as a “heaty” fruit, also known as a yang food. This means, according to Chinese medicine, the fruit is stimulating and promotes blood circulation.
Which is better for you, longan or lychee?
The fruits are very similar and have similar nutritional profiles. Lychee is considered slightly better as it has more essential minerals, though both fruits have plenty of antioxidants.
What is longan honey?
Longan honey is literally honey made by bees who have collected from longan trees. It is a medium-dark honey, with a very sweet, rich flavor.
Can dogs eat longans?
If you peel the fruit and offer your dog only the ripe flesh, yes, your dog can eat longans. However, the seed must be removed, as they are toxic for dogs. The saponin in the seed can cause diarrhea.