The lychee originated from south China and probably in northern Vietnam and the Malay Peninsula. Lychee trees grow at altitudes of 600-800 meters and below 500 meters in Leizhou Peninsula, in the east of Guangxi and the west of Guangdong. Lychee belongs to the Sapindacea or soapberry family. It is sometimes known as “litchi” and it is red or pale orange skin which has a bumpy skin. The flesh is white, has one seed and is juicy. The fruit has a distinct, slightly acidic taste which is only comparable to the grape’s taste.
The main benefits of this fruit that have been proven are: relieving of coughing, easing of abdominal pain and are thought to ease swollen glands and tumours. Apparently, tea that is made from lychee peelings is said to cure diarrhea and smallpox. The seeds are used to make tea to relieve stomach pain. Certain sections of the bark root and flowers are gargled for sore throat. Lychee has dietary fiber to help the digestive system and help one maintain a healthy weight. Lychee contains oligonol which has antioxidants that that fight flu, protects the skin from UV rays and to improve blood flow. The fruit also has vitamin B6, as well as thiamin, niacin, copper, folate and potassium. Potassium helps control blood pressure, heart rate, prevents heart disease and lessens the risk of a stroke. Here are the top 11 largest litchi producing countries in the world in 2018.
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The first official sighting of the lychee fruit in China was in the 2nd Century B.C. Unofficial records however, date back further to 1766 B.C. there exists a lychee register that indicates that there were 16 lychee cultivars in Guangdong by around 1034. China has an annual production of around 200,000. The lychee trees are distributed in seven provinces in China. The provinces include: Wai Chee, Haak Yip, Sum Yee Hong, Kwai May and No Mai Chee. Guangdong and Fujian are the principal producing arfeas, followed by Guangxi, Yunnan and Sichuan.
Guangdong produces 65% of the lychee crop in the entire nation. The area under lychee cultivation is 300,000 hectares. Average yields in the country are around 2 tons per hectare. In Fujian, yields are much lower where lychee is considered of poorer quality. There are 10 different varieties of lychee cultivated in China. The most important one sincluede: Sum Yee Hong, Tai So, Haak Yip, Kwai May and No Mai Chee. The No Mai Chee and Kwai May variety are eaten most frequently. Some varieties are best eaten raw while others are more suitable when canned or dried.
Haak Yip, Chong Yun Hong were brought to Taiwan from mainland China in 1760 and again in 1860. Since the ‘20s, lychee plants have been spread to all districts in Taiwan except the north where the cold weather does not permit the cultivation of lychee. The central and southern areas of Taiwan are the principal areas of cultivation, as they have alluvial sandy, loam soils. These soils produce higher yields. Haak Yip is the most widely grown cultivar and accounts for over 80% of lychee cultivation. Other cultivars are: Chong Yun Hong, No Mai Chee, Sum Yee Hong.
The main production areas in Thailand are Chiang Mai, Fang and Lamphum which are at altitudes of 300 to 600 meters. These areas have a monsoonal climate and have a distinct dry season. Areas north of Bangkok, which is a tropical area with high rainfall. Though the lychee has a long history in Thailand, cultivars of higher quality from China were only introduced it in the early 1950s. the cultivars used in Thailand are Tai So, Wai Chee, Chacapat and Baidum.
The northern region of Vietnam is a section of the original area of distribution of lychee. Cultivation of this crop is 6000 tons from 1500 hectares. It is expected to rise to about 40000 tons in coming years. The main lychee producing areas are the lowland and upland areas. These areas are cool enough for cultivation. Vietnam is mainly dependent on the Thieu cultivar which was introduced centuries ago. Lychee is more prioritised in Vietnam, more prioritised than other fruits.
By the end of the 7th century, the lychee fruit had already arrived in India. India is now a formidable opponent in the lychee production industry. It produces almost as many lychees as China. During the last two centuries, it spread to different areas in India. More than 70% of lychees are produced in Northern Bihar. Other states include: Uttar Pradesh which produces 6% and West Bengal which accounts for 15% of India’s total. The cultivars in India are mostly developed from seedlings of Chinese origin. Therefore, the same cultivar of lychee can be known by different names in different areas. In India, the main factor limiting lychee production is harsh climatic conditions such as the presence of hot and strong winds. There are 10 varieties of the fruit cultivated in India but there are three that are most popular. They include: Rose-Scented, Shahi and China. They are valued because of their size and quality.
6. South Africa
Evidence suggests that lychee trees were imported into South Africa from Mauritius in the early 1870s. Commercial cultivation orchards are currently spread all over Levubbu, Tzaneen, Nelspruit, Malelane and Barbeton. About half of lychee is exported to Europe, and the country is in direct competition with Madagascar. The main cultivar grown is H.L.H Mauritius. It resembles the Chinese cultivar Tai So. Tai So’s main disadvantage is how its seed is large.
Introduced in Israel in 1934, lychee did not start being commercially produced until after another 40-50 years. Production is around 500 tons from 200 hectares of land. Almost all of the fruit is exported to Europe. Lychee orchards are now present in most areas of the country except in the Araya and Negev regions. The main cultivars are: Floridian, Kaimana, Garnet, Mauritius and No Mai Chee. The fruits are treated with sulphur dioxide to maintain the red tint.
The fruit arrived in the nation from Mauritius in 1770. Lychee production is estimated to be around 50000 tons and is mostly concentrated to the moist eastern seaboard. Quantities of 5000-10000 tons are exported to Europe, mostly across the ocean. The main cultivar is Mauritius. Fruits are treated by sulphur oxide to preserve the original color. The trees do not grow in an organised fashion, with most cultivation being done on less than 1 hectare.
Introduced into Australia over a century ago, the lychee has had a culturally rich history in this country. It was brought into the country by Chinese immigrants who had initially come to work in the goldfields. The immigrants would eat the fruit and throw the seeds away. These seeds would later grow into the one hundred-year-old trees we see today. There were also lychee plants in the Sydney Botanic Gardens in the 1850s. Wai Chee, Tai So and Bengal are the main cultivars. This is because they were the only readily accessible lychee varieties during the expanding of the industry in the 1970s. These cultivars are no longer being uses and expansion on the industry is now based on cultivars such as: Salathiel, Kwai May Pink in areas that are cool and Fay Siu in warmer places.
The first lychee was introduced in Hawaii in 873 and continued to grow till 1972. Lychees are grown to a height of 500 meters and sometimes up to 1000 meters on the islands of Hawaii. Commercial cultivation peaked in the ‘60s, with around 25,000 trees and production of about 250 tons. The average yield was 10 kilograms per tree. 20% of lychee was exported to the mainland. However, production dropped because of quarantine restrictions with exported fruit and few yields. There has been interest in lychee since 980, due to accessibility of better cultivars and improvements in technology. The most important cultivar grown in Hawaii is the Tai So. It ids grown on a wide scale and its ripening process is from May to June. Other cultivars such as the Haak Yip, the Brewster, the Kaimana and Sweetcliff have been tried but none have as widespread a popularity as Tai So.
11. The United States – Florida
The south of Florida is known for being the United States’ fruit capital, especially the tropical kind. This is due to an active research program, and a plant introduction program. In 1957, Florida’s lychee production had reached a peak of about 30 hectares but later declined in 1966 because of cold damage and urban expansion. Since 1975, the production of lychee has been on a steady rise. However, production suffered a drawback in 1992 with Hurricane Andrew destroying a third of the trees. What led to an interest in lychee was a search for alternatives to limes, a bigger demand for exotics and the opportunity for greater returns. The main cultivar in Florida is Brewster which has great flavor and color. Another cultivar is Tai So. It isn’t as liked as the Brewster as it is prone to wind damage.
These are the world’s top 10 litchi producing countries in 2018. For those who have intestinal or generally stomach problems, those who are struggling with tumours and skin problem and need some potassium and folate this fruit can be a very good source of these nutrients and can as well prevent and cure some of these ailments. Just get to the market and make a habit of consuming it over your meal.