Exotic Fruits in Su Shih’s Wild South Exile

Lychee

This is Su ‘s favorite fruit, he has written a few poems about it. (See lychee poetry).

The fruit is indigenous to China. On the tree, it is protected by a bumpy, leathery rind that is inedible. This rind easily comes away from the juicy flesh of the fruit, which is translucent and a pearly white color. It is sweet and crispy, and many people enjoy eating it fresh.

Lychee is also found canned or dried.  In the center of the fruit is a hard seed or nut, which is discarded. It is inedible, like the rind, and slightly toxic.

The fruit is also pressed for juice and used to flavor tea.

Longan

Dragon Eye with Seed

Su Shih wrote one or two poem(s) about it and also in Lament for Lychees.
The longan is a brown skinned fruit that is said to be the “little brother” of the lychee. It is native to China and South East Asia and is a little larger than an olive. The longan has a musky, grape flavor and is sweeter than a lychee but not as juicy. The longan has a whitish, translucent flesh that encases a small black seed, and its skin is pale brown and brittle.

The longan ‘s Chinese characters mean dragon’s eye. It is the seed at the center of the fruit that gave it the “eyeball” name. The seed is jet black and shiny with a circular white spot at its base, giving it the appearance of an eyeball. In China, the longan is used more often in traditional medicine as a dried fruit de-seeded.

Loquat

loquat with seeds

This is a common fruit in the Chinese world. A very popular syrup for cough and sore throat can be found in Chinese supermarkets or medicine stores around the world. A loquat is both a tree and its fruit, thought to have originated in China. At least 1,000 years ago, the Japanese began to cultivate the loquat. Loquats are now grown in the Middle East, parts of Europe and Africa, Brazil, Hawaii, and throughout California.

Both the exterior and interior of the loquat are edible, though some prefer to peel the fruit. The three or four seeds, which look a bit like hazelnuts, are not edible, as they contain a small amount of cyanide. In any preparation of the loquat, the seeds should be discarded.

Waxberry

waxberry open fruit

Su mentioned the fruit in his lychee poetry.It is also called tree berry, the waxy fruit of the wax myrtle tree. They have been collected for thousands of years in China and used medicinally from the ancient time. The fresh fruit is uncommon in Chinese markets or supermarkets but may be found as dried fruit products.

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