Lychee Means Summer in Hawaii
The plumeria trees are choke full of blossoms. Red-footed booby eggs are hatching out naked and scrawny chicks. Ticks are springing to life and chasing my two dogs. Gardenia blossoms are raiding the senses through open windows of the house. Ceilings fans are whirring.
And lychee are popping up everywhere, their soft fruit encased in a thick skin.
I have a friend who moved into a new home with a towering lychee tree that shaded her entire yard. Its generosity of shade far surpassed its generosity of fruit, however, so at the advice of others more knowledge in this endeavor, she girdled it. Not to kill it but to shock it into fruiting. And it did. Soon, she was bagging bouquets of the golf-ball-sized fruit to give away to neighbors. To take to the office for co-workers. To nourish fellows writers.
Others with an excess of the fruit native to southeast Asia sell bags of the sought-after fruit from the beds of their trucks, the trunks of their cars and behind card tables set up on the sides of busy roads. Not to mention farmers markets.
The red shell of the oval fruit peels away to reveal a white translucent fruit with a sweet-tart, grape-like flavor wrapped around a single seed. The Hawaii Farmers Market Cookbook contains two recipes for lychee: Ginger-Stuffed Lychee and Lychee Salsa. But my favorite way to eat it is raw. Right out of the reddish-brown papery skin.
Last week, after three hours of watching a two-week-old Hawaiian monk seal pup cavort in the near-shores waters of the beach, crawl over her mother’s head, poke her mother for another round of nursing and, finally, settle in for a morning nap, I roasted under the hot sun of a mid-morning day when the trades didn’t even tickle the film of the ocean’s surface. And, then, Sharon Pomroy showed up with a bag of chilled lychee. I peeled the skin back with my teeth and squeezed the orb of cold meat into my mouth, spitting out the seed. The first lychee of the season always tastes the best. That's when it dawned on me: It's summer in Hawaii.
The great pendulum of nature has swung through spring and is returning with the next season, summer. Our seasons in Hawaii may not look like those elsewhere but are seasons nonetheless. Right now, it's lychee season.