In Asian countries like China and Vietnam, longan (Euphoria Longan) is often called “Dragon’s Eye” because of the white eye-shaped mark on the pit – giving it the appearance of an actual eyeball. And just like the mythical creature it’s been named for, longan fruit has been dubbed “magical” because of its wholesome benefits – Don’t underestimate it because of its small size. Here’s everything you should know about the humble longan berry.
What Is Longan?
Longan refers to an evergreen tree from the soapberry family, and is indigenous to China and India (although it is now grown all over Southeast Asia1). This medium-sized tree can grow up to 20 to 23 feet in height, with a cork-like bark and roundish crown. Its leaves are shiny dark green, with a leathery texture and pointed tips.2
The star of this plant, however, is the fruit. Small and round, longan berries have a fragile, pale brown skin (called a pericarp3), a sensitive, whitish, almost transparent flesh and a small brown or black seed in the center. The berries are a little bit bigger than olives.4
Some people think that there’s not much distinction between longan versus lychee, but you should know that these are two different plant species. They’re closely related, though, and longan is often called lychee’s “little brother.”5 It’s also related to rambutan (minus the spiky red skin).
In addition, longan berries are said to be “more gratifying” than the lychee. Its flesh is juicy and deliciously sweet, with a musky flavor almost similar to that of grapes.6
Longan trees grow best in areas with tropical weather, where the autumns are dry and there’s no frost during winter. The trees are cultivated as a food source, but in cold areas, they’re usually grown only as an ornamental plant because they cannot produce fruit in low temperatures.7
Depending upon climate and soil type the tree may grow to over 100 feet (30 m) in height, but it typically stands 30–40 ft (9–12 m) in height and the crown is round. The trunk is 2.5 ft (0.8 m) thick with corky bark. The branches are long and thick, typically drooping.
The leaves are oblong and blunt-tipped, usually 4–8 inches (10–20 cm) long and 2 in (5 cm) wide. The leaves are pinnately compounded and alternate. There are 6 to 9 pairs of leaflets per leaf and the upper surface is wavy and a dark, glossy-green.
The Longan tree produces light-yellow inflorescences located at the end of branches. The inflorescence is commonly called a panicle and are 4–18 in (10–46 cm) long, and widely-branched. The small flowers have 5 to 6 sepals and petals that are brownish-yellow. The flower has a two-lobed pistil and 8 stamen. There are three flower types, distributed throughout the panicle; staminate (functionally male), pistillate (functionally female), and hermaphroditic flowers. Flowering occurs as a progression.
The fruit hangs in drooping clusters that are circular and about 1 in (2.5 cm) wide. The peel is tan, thin, and leathery with tiny hairs. The flesh is translucent, and the seed is large and black with a circular white spot at the base. This gives the illusion of an eye. The flesh has a musky, sweet taste, which can be compared to the flavor of lychee fruit.
The Longan tree is somewhat sensitive to frost. Longan trees prefer sandy soil. While the species prefers temperatures that do not typically fall below 4.5 °C (40 °F), it can withstand brief temperature drops to about −2 °C (28 °F). Longans usually bear fruit slightly later than lychees.
The wild longan population have been decimated considerably by large-scale loggings in the past, and the species used to be listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. If left alone, longan tree stumps will resprout and the listing was upgraded to Near Threatened in 1998. Recent field data are inadequate for a contemporary IUCN assessment.
- Helps bolster your immunity against colds and flu – The vitamin C in longan berries improves your defense mechanism, and is also essential to iron absorption and improving skin health.
- Promotes optimal blood circulation – This is mainly due to its high iron content, which is said to be 20 times higher than grapes and 15 times higher than spinach.Consuming longan may also help prevent anemia.
- Helps maintain cardiovascular health – By rejuvenating blood circulation, longan berries can effectively stimulate the spleen and help improve heart conditions, reducing the risk of cardiac arrest and stroke. It can also soothe the nervous system.
- Improves the appearance of skin – The nutrients in longan may have properties that can help slow down the signs of aging and enhance overall skin health.
|Calories from Fat||1|
|Total Fat||0 g||0%|
|Saturated Fat||0 g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrates||15 g||5%|
|Dietary Fiber||1 g||4%|
|Vitamin A0%||Vitamin C||140%|
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.