(editor's note -- written by the WineGoddess)
In my desire to consume as much chilled white wine as possible in this nasty and oppressive New York City heat, I rediscovered my love for zesty and refreshing gewürztraminer (more on this wine gem in a future article). Quite often I sat there with sweat running down my forehead, reading the back labels of the flute-shaped bottles: “Intriguingly aromatic with bold hints of exotic spice and litchi nuts…” And then it dawned on me. What the hell is a litchi nut anyway?!
I had a strong urge to find out.
If you’re anything like me (a product of small-town America), you’ve never tried a litchi nut, let alone seen one. So I made a trip to the local Stop & Shop to get the scoop. I was in luck, because apparently early July is prime litchi nut season. Herb the Produce Man (sanity check: can a man named Herb really work in produce?) was kind of enough to point me in the direction of the litchis, piled high in a small box low to the ground and out of sight – clearly not a popular item. Brownish red with spiny looking skins, these golf ball sized things seemed to stare back at me, desperate for attention. I grabbed a few, threw them in a plastic bag, and made my way home.
Like an idiot, I forgot to ask Herb how to eat them.
I tried to peel the litchis, but that got me nowhere; the skin was tough and unyielding. Then came the paring knife, which met with somewhat greater success than my fingernail. With a slit around the circumference, I popped off the casing and found myself with a translucent white ball, vaguely resembling an eyeball. Kind of creepy. Slicing down the center like a skilled surgeon, I discovered a smooth brown almond-shaped seed living in the middle. Scooping the white flesh away from this seed, I was finally left with the prize: juicy, sweet, exotic fruit worthy of the time spent procuring it from its covering. And aaaahhhhhh, it smelled like gewürztraminer! The luscious litchi. So that’s what they were talking about!!
You need to experience it for yourself. Words really can’t describe the marvelous sensation.
Now the 411: Did you know the litchi nut is actually a fruit and not a nut? It hails from Southeast Asia and is often grown in the subtropical climates of California, Florida and Hawaii. Spelled many different ways, including lychee, lichee and litchee, you can rest assured it’s not a careless typo on the back label of a wine bottle when you see it in its many forms. My Stop & Shop sold litchi nuts for $3.99/lb, which depending on their size, gives you about a dozen to play with.
My advice to you: Hurry up and check them out before they go out of season. And be sure to have a glass of gewürztraminer by your side for the full sensory effect!