, , , ,

Even before going to China, I’d heard of longan, which are called long yan (dragon eye) in Chinese. The name arises from the yellow shell of the fruit, through which the longan’s black seed can be seen, resembling the effect of a pupil on a yellow eye ball.

Longan are the fruit of Dimocarpus longan, a tree requiring warm, tropical climates and very popular both fresh and dried inside their shell (then called gui yuan) in China. Like lychees, the hard shell is peeled off to reveal a succulent, juicy, white-fleshed fruit, which turns almost black when dried. Gui yuan are used in traditional herbal medicine for calming purposes. While we were there, fresh longan weren’t in season, but gui yuan were everywhere:

By the way, the picture also shows jackfruit (top left corner, post soon to come), papaya (top middle, post soon to come), plums (top right corner), grapes (left), mangosteen (right), and lychees (bottom left corner, post soon to come)!

Now, these fruit are lychee-sized (see the bottom left corner?), but clock in at an amazing 2kcal. That’s right, 2 calories per fruit, or 17 per ounce. They are very rich in Vitamin C and also provide good amounts of Riboflavin, Potassium and Copper. They are very sweet, and in their dried form have a similar texture to dried figs. However, don’t chew too enthusiastically, the pit is still in there!

What are your favorite dried fruits? Do you prefer them sweetened or without added sugar and flavoring? Baked? Dehydrated? Fried?