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Climbing the Lychee Trees in Chandigarh

July 09, 2024

Climbing the Lychee Trees in Chandigarh


While many sing the praises of mangoes in India and beyond, my childhood memories are filled with a small, round, white opaque sweet fruit encased in a brownish-red peel. To some it may look strange. When you know what it is though, you will revel in its sweet deliciousness. I'm so obsessed with lychee that when I visited my cousin and her family in Vancouver in 1986, she and I literally took bags of it to Expo 86 - the World Fair. We knew we would be standing in line for hours and why not have our favorite fruit on hand? Admittedly it was my idea - most of the crazy things we did when we were younger often stemmed from me - if I am going to be honest. So my cousin went along and as we stood in one line a local Canadian in front of us turned around and said 'What are those things? They look like eyeballs!' Hm. I never thought of that! I guess they do once they are peeled. We ended up becoming friends and he ended up giving a lychee a try and liking it. It was the first time that I realized not everyone knew what lychee was. 

My first exposure to this fruit was visiting my mother's childhood home and where I was born, Chandigarh, India. Our home has a garden in the back with huge fruit trees, including lychee. I would usually visit with my mother in the summer from America. It was where I and all of my cousins on my mother's side would congregate and create trouble. She comes from a family of twelve kids - so you can only imagine what it was like. Pure havoc. Cousins everywhere and limited adult supervision! 

I would longingly gaze up at the tall, lean lychee tree next to our veranda and imagine plucking the round hanging fruit - enticingly plump and sweet in the summer heat. One day I did it - when no one was looking - I climbed up that tree, grasped what I could, and awkwardly jumped down before I was forced to share. I carefully peeled each one in the dark quiet of our dining room - I had about four in my sweaty hand - and stuck them in the small fridge way in the back. It was competitive back then among the cousins for the spoils of the mango and lychee trees. But, an hour later when I got back to the fridge it was all gone! To this day no one will admit who ate my lychee - but I guess that's what makes childhood memories so special.

I encourage you all to seek out this delicious fruit now - it's the perfect time of year. Head to an ethnic grocer and ask for it, or find it in many mainstream grocers. I will say, the lychee I find in an Indian or Chinese grocery store is usually more plump and sweeter than in the mainstream grocer - not to mention much cheaper. Look for them to be plump and reddish-brown on the outside. Cool them in the fridge and the pull them out, peel them, and enjoy. There will be a hard, dark seed in the middle which you don't eat, much in the same way as eating cherries. Simply discard it. Yes, you can find lychee in a can stored in sweet syrup - but there is nothing like fresh, cold lychee on a hot summer day.

Did you know that lychee also has health benefits? They are high in Vitamin C and antioxidants. Check back and I'll add more information on that. For now, let's hear your stories about lychee. Add them to the comment section below! xoxo Anupy 

 




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