Longan (ลำไย)

(Dimocarpus longan)

Longan was brought to Thailand from China in 19th century. Chinese call it “the eye of dragon”. Longan reminds more of berries than fruit and it is rather popular in Thailand. Except longan you will meet the other “members” of soapberry family in markets of Thailand – lychee and rambutan. They have similar structure, but different taste. Despite of longan’s popularity in Thai orchards, according to IUCN Red List, wild longan is a near-threatened specie.

Taste of longan

Longan has soft medium-juicy flesh (like a jelly) and sweet taste. Longan’s taste reminds me of sugar that was dissolved in a big amount of cold water. There’s a lack of sour taste. Also longan has no distinct aroma. Thais appreciate these fruit, as for me – I think there are fruits with more interesting taste in Thailand. But that’s just a matter of taste.

How to eat longan

Peel the fruit: it’s easier to start from peduncle. Then eat longan like a plum or a cherry (seeds are inedible).

How to choose, transport & store

Longan can be easily confused with langsat. How to avoid mistake:

  • Longan has smaller fruit and they are of distinct round shape.
  • Longan fruit grow scattered, while langsat fruit grow in dense clusters.
  • Thai vendors sometimes put plates with Thai names of fruits, written in English. Longan is “lamyai” in Thai, langsat – “longkong”. Easy to get confused, right?

Farmers pick fruit in the early morning; they cut small branches with ripe longan off the tree in order to help fruit to stay fresh longer. That’s why longan is sold with branches. Sometimes they are composed in attractive bunches.

One should eat longan fresh, as the skin of berries becomes too dry & crisp very soon, so one will have to do more labor peeling longan later. If you’ve bought too much of longan, wrap it in a plastic bag and store the fruit in a fridge, not more than 1 week.

Longan is easy to transport as the peel protects fruit from damages. Be aware with exported longan – it undergoes sulfur fumigation in order to get through long shipping. So it’s better to consume longan in Thailand or any other country that produces this fruit.

When and where to buy

The season for longan in Thailand is spring & summer. It is sold everywhere. The cost starts from 25 THB per kg.

Fruit basket with longan
Fruit basket with longan in yard of guesthouse
Longan tree
Longan tree

Source of pictures (except those with watermark): Wikipedia, authors – Dinkum, Nelson Ramos Lopes, Pouletic and Agricultural Research Service of USDA.


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