Lychee (litchi) is a tropical fruit originating from southern China. It has a round or oval shape and a pink or reddish outer skin, which is inedible. Inside the skin is a white, juicy pulp that surrounds a single large seed. Lychee has a sweet, floral taste and is often consumed fresh or used in juices, cocktails, and desserts.
In Mauritius, the lychee season begins in December and ends a few months later. The fruit is sold literally everywhere during the season and is very popular. The island is known for its lychee production, which is most often grown in the northern and western regions. Fruit cultivation is an important part of the Mauritian economy and is a significant export item.
Lychee is grown here on small farms. The trees require a warm and humid climate and well-drained soil to thrive. They are often grown in areas with high humidity and precipitation. Lychee can be grown from seeds, but it is usually propagated by cutting.
The trees begin to bear fruit at the age of 3-4 years and can bear fruit for up to 50 years. The fruits are harvested by hand when they are ripe, as ripening stops after they are picked. Ripe lychee is a favorite treat for local birds and fruit bats, so the trees are protected from pests by large nets.
When you drive or take a bus around the island during the lychee season, you cannot miss the orchards of this fruit. In front of each orchard, there is usually a small stand selling freshly harvested fruit.
After arranging with local farmers, I had a great opportunity to visit the orchard where the harvest was taking place. An interesting fact is that lychees are harvested here with a small piece of twig. It is a very hard work. At the same time, I had the opportunity to taste lychee freshly picked from the tree. Its taste is incredible. The taste and texture of lychee change a bit with the increasing time since picking, and the peel darkens. At first glance, you can tell the difference between freshly picked lychee and lychee picked a few days ago by the peel.
In Mauritius, lychees are sold in the range of 150 – 300 MUR per kilogram (i.e., approx. 3 – 6 EUR). The further away from tourist routes you are, the cheaper lychees you can buy.
If you are in Mauritius during the lychee season, be sure to taste it. I bet you won’t buy it just once.