Longan’s origin is southern China, specifically the provinces of Kwangtung, Kwangsi, Schezwan, and Fuklen. Longan’s literal translation is “dragon eyes.” Though some scholars date the fruit’s entry into India circa 1790, scientists from the World Agro Forestry Center point to passages from ancient Indian literature and state the fruit is native not only to China, but to the forests and hills of Assam and the Garo hills.
Today, longans grow throughout Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Taiwan, and they are exotic in parts of the Caribbean and the US. In Australia, scientists have attempted to hybridize the fruits by cross-pollinating varieties of lychees and longans.
Taste of Longan
Perfectly ripe longans are sweet, refreshing and clean with hints of floral nectar. The texture is similar to a grape, as is the flavor: If the grape was stripped of its tart skin, and was more subdued in its sourness and sweetness, the remaining flavor would resemble a longan.
Overripe, purple-fleshed longans develop a savory, musky, pungent flavor resembling garlic and onions. These longans are evident by their mushier, soft and pliable skin. Gradually, these unusual flavors yield to a fermented, unpleasant taste.