Lychees are indigenous to China, where they have a been in cultivation for over 2,000 years. Today they are grown on every continent except Antarctica, and they are famed as the "King of Fruits." Despite worldwide distribution, they remain one of China's best kept secrets.
The trees were first introduced to Florida in the 1930s, and the original grove is still in production in Avon Park. Today, commercial production is concentrated in an agricultural district southwest of Miami called the Redlands. Even though there is more than seven hundred and fifty acres of commercial production, the fruit is known to less than one percent of Americans. This is primarily due to the short period of time in which the fresh fruit is available, and its frustratingly short shelf life. In South Florida the lychee season is from late May to early July, and at this time they can be found in ethnic markets and gourmet restaurants throughout the country.
To those entirely unfamiliar with the fruit they may appear bizarre and the name slightly unappealing. Often compared to eyeballs in appearance and mispronounced as a swamp dwelling bloodsucker, the delicious treasures don't always make good first impressions among Westerners. The flavor, however, is as exquisite as it is unique. The pulp is aromatic, sweet to sub-acid, separates easily from the seed and outer shell, and is unlike anything else on earth. They are as addictive as they are elusive, and the lychee can quickly become an expensive habit.