The longan, also known as longyan as well as “guiyuan fruit,” is a fruit that is native to South and Southeast Asia. The longan is quite a unique fruit, in the same family as the lychee, though quite different in taste, color, and flavor. Similarly to the lychee though, the longan grows on a tree and provides many health benefits.
The longan is actually prounounced “long-an,” rather than lon-gan. This is because, in Chinese, the fruit is called 龙眼 (lóngyǎn), which literally means dragon eye.
Each longan fruit consists of a yellow, semi-rough, but thin, peel on the outside. The peel is easily peeled away to reveal pure, white, flesh similar to that of a lychee. On the very inside is the seed, which is what gives the longan its name. The seed is small, smooth, round, and hard, with a dark, black color.
On the outside, the longan grows in bunches of tens of fruits on the longan tree. In cultivated varieties, the longan is both sweet, juicy, and succulent. In East Asia, the longan is not only eaten fresh, it is also used in many food products and dishes, such as soups, snacks, and desserts, or it can be dried. In fact, it can also be used in sweet-and-sour foods.
It may be harder to find the longan fresh in Western supermarkets, though some Asian markets may import these delicious fruits fresh. However, it is quite easy to find dried or canned longans. However, canned longans do compromise on the flavor and nutrition that you can get from fresh longans.
Dried longans have a special place in Chinese cuisine and culture. Dried longans are called guiyuan, and are used extensively in Chinese cooking and sweet, dessert soups. In Chinese culture, the guiyuan is believed, and has been researched to help with relaxation. The longan has long been used in Chinese traditional herbal medicine. Interestingly enough, the longan’s flesh, while fresh, is pure and white, though when dried, the flesh is dark brown to black-colored.
The longan has been valued for its health benefits since ancient times. In Chinese traditional medicine, the longan is used not only as a delicious fruit, but also for treating stomach ache, insomnia, and more. The fruit also is said to have a calming effect, nourish the blood, and invigorate the heart. Many of these benefits have been confirmed with modern science.
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