The longan is a four-star fruit, a delicious late summer offering. Unlike its temperamental five-star cousin, the lychee, it is a reliable fruiter to be enjoyed year after year. The grapelike clusters of fruit can remain on the tree for a while, spreading out the otherwise short season.
The fruit should be ready to eat when you buy it, and has a relatively short shelf life, perhaps a week in the refrigerator. It can be carefully peeled, but generally you just nick the skin with the teeth, squeeze out the juicy, translucent interior, and eject the single seed.
Longans are a beautiful evergreen tree that can become quite large if allowed to (as commercial growers, we don’t). Obtain a grafted, named variety. Longans have average flood tolerance, but like most fruit trees they are best grown on a mound. Fruit should be aggressively thinned once formed— not only does this produce larger, fleshier fruit, but the heavy production can lead to broken branches if uncontrolled.
At SweetSong Groves, we have two longan trees, NW-G-3 (Big Jim) and NW-G-4 (Biew Kiew). Watch for fruit from both in coming seasons.