By: Liz Baessler
Lychees are an extremely popular fruit from Southeast Asia that are gaining more traction around the world. If you do, you’re probably very interested in how and when to harvest lychee fruit. Keep reading to learn more about picking lychees correctly and effectively.
When to Harvest Lychee Fruit
Unlike many fruits, lychees do not continue to ripen after they’re picked, which means it’s important to time your harvest as well as possible. It can be hard to tell from sight, but ripe lychees are slightly more swollen, causing the bumps on the skin to spread out and take on an overall flatter appearance.
A more trusted method of testing for ripeness is the taste test. Lychees that are ready for picking are sweet, but with a slightly acidic flavor. When they are under-ripe they’re more sour, and when they are overripe they’re sweeter but bland. If you’re picking your lychees just for yourself, you can harvest when the balance of flavor is exactly to your liking.
How to Harvest Lychees
Lychee harvest is never done fruit by fruit, as it’s hard to remove them from the stem without damaging the skin and seriously reducing shelf life. You should only ever pick an individual lychee if you plan on putting it straight into your mouth. Instead, harvest lychees in clusters, using pruning shears to snip off stems that have several fruits on them. As the fruits mature at different rates, you may want to harvest every 3 to 4 days over the course of several weeks.
Harvesting lychee fruit doesn’t just stop with removing them from the tree. Lychees are very perishable, especially if they’re warm. The fruits will only keep their bright red color for 3 to 5 days at room temperature. As soon as they are picked, they should be chilled to between 30 and 45 F. (-1-7 C.). They can be stored at this temperature for up to 3 months.
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Read more about Lychee Tree
Litchi Species, Chinese Lychee, Lumquat
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)
Where to Grow:
Soil pH requirements:
From seed sow indoors before last frost
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen clean and dry seeds
This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:
Merritt Island, Florida(2 reports)
On Mar 1, 2009, timrann from Other,
Here in Mauritius we have many of these. Also there is cultivar named Mauritius. Easily grown from seed or air-layering or even grafted. The easiest way is from air-layering that takes about 45 days to 70 days to roots on the mother plant. In Mauritius , the fruits ripe in summer which is nov - jan.
On Jan 16, 2009, vossner from East Texas,
United States (Zone 8a) wrote:
Delicious fruit, tree will not survive in my area w/o a whole lot of winter TLC or a greenhouse.
On Aug 14, 2006, tmccullo from Houston, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:
We love Lychee. My wife buys them by the pounds at the grocery store. We literally throw the seeds out into our garden and they grow. I have transplanted quite of few of them in pots. we are finding out that the love shade when they are still young. I can't wait until we get one big enough to put into the ground. Anyone know how long they take to get 3-4' tall? How log before they produce fruit?
On Jul 15, 2006, greyyhawkk from Seattle, WA wrote:
The dictionaries (onelook.com) list the pronunciation as lee-chee like the davesgarden listing at the top of the page does, vs. lie-chee.
On Jun 29, 2006, stressbaby from Fulton, MO wrote:
I grow smaller lychees in a zone 5 greenhouse. I thought I would add my "lessons learned" under the species, but I grow 'Brewster' and 'Sweetheart.'
The lychee is tricky to grow here. I grow them in raised beds, not in containers, upon the recommendation of the Florida nursery from which I purchased them. They are in loam well-amended with peat and compost. Lychees in my greenhouse go through several growth flushes per year. During these growth flushes, adequate moisture is essential they do best with a thorough watering daily. They are salt sensitive, and so rainwater or treated water should be used. They are sensitive to overfertilization with too much fert, the leaves will brown from the edges. And finally, the new, emerging leaves are wind-sensitive. Even an o. read more scillating fan blowing through the tree is enough to wreck leaves.
If you live in a northern climate and grow tropicals, this one will test your green thumb.The plant has a light chill requirement, but it is possible to get flowering and fruit set from the tree in this setting.
On Jul 9, 2004, punaheledp from Kailua, HI (Zone 11) wrote:
if all you've ever tasted is canned lychee (yuck), you haven't tasted the bit of heaven fresh lychee is. When lucky I get a box from my brother on the Big Is. Like them chilled, will try frozen, sounds good. I've always heard the tree is temperamental and will go a few years without bearing if it doesn't like conditions. Nice looking tree. My neighbor had one but it stopped producing no matter what he did to encourage it so took it down.
On Jun 6, 2004, foodiesleuth from Honomu, HI (Zone 11) wrote:
Lychee are pronounced Lie-chee, not Lee-chee. It grows very well in Hawaii. This year the crops seem to be especially large and the fruit bigger, plumper and juicier.
The fruit reminds me somewhat of the "mamomcillo" I grew up with in Cuba, though the taste and shell are not the same at all.
On Jun 5, 2004, Thaumaturgist from Rockledge, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:
If you search for Litchi chinensis, you would find that there are postings already for the top 6 varieties of Lychee,
Kwai Mai Pink
On Jun 5, 2004, Jamespayne from Sebring, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:
I can not believe no one has posted a positive note on this tree and it's World renowed fruit, that bestows an addictive flavor that makes them impossible to stop eating!! They become ripe the second week of June and must be picked before they quickly drop onto the ground. In growing zone 9a-9b, they do well as long as the Winter cold snaps do not stay below freezing for over 3-4 hours. In 1982, a severe cold snap killed many Lychee Trees in our area. Now the area is full once again with Lychee Trees, and most if not all are for personal use, and not grown in central Florida for market sales. In south Florida they do grow them to sell and they bring a very hefty price. They can not be compared to the canned lychees. The canned are much too sweet and have the can taste, unlike the fresh. read more off of the tree taste, that is just this side of Heaven! The best way to obtain a lychee tree besides buying one from a nursery, is to air layer a limb, and after about 6-8 weeks, roots will have formed and you can cut the branch you have air layered and plant the Lychee Tree. If grown from seed they reach 18" inches for 18 months before growing any taller. Between my Dad and myself we must have air layered over 30 trees, and we are more than happy to share our harvest with friends and family. My favorite way to eat them is to freeze them and eat them while I watch television. The taste is so good it will make your tongue "slap-your-brains-out"!! LOL!! :-)
How to Know When Lychee Fruits Are Ripe
Native to China, lychee (Litchi chinensis) plants can be grown in a few places in the United States. The lychee will grow best in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 10a through 11. They need warm summers and mild winters with 100 to 200 chill hours for fruit production, according to the California Rare Fruit Growers. Once the tree sets fruit, you must leave it in place to fully ripen because the fruit will not ripen after it's picked. The size and color of the fruit will be the main indicators of when to harvest.
Look for lychee fruits with a bright red, pebbly textured rind, which indicates that they have reached the proper sugar-to-acid ratio.
Measure the bright red lychee fruits and harvest them if they are about 1 inch in diameter or larger.
Snip the main stem for each cluster of lychee fruits off. Use a pruning pole to access fruits high inside the thick canopy.
Store lychee in the refrigerator for up to five weeks.
Lychee trees require full sun for flowering and fruiting. They have relatively high water needs and grow best in moist but well-drained soil. Lychee trees can tolerate sandy, loam and clay soils with an acidic to slightly alkaline pH. They are moderately drought-tolerant, but have very low tolerance for salt, so they should not be planted in areas with direct coastal exposure.
Richard Corrigan has been a full-time professional writer since 2010. His areas of expertise include travel, sports and recreation, gardening, landscaping and the outdoors. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from SUNY Geneseo in 2009.
Lychee – Fruit garden
Lychee fruit comes from the Litchi chinensis tree and is in the monotypic genus Litchi, meaning it is the only species in the genus. Lychees are a standout amongst the most eminent fruits of the world. Today they are developed on each mainland but Antarctica and they are celebrated internationally as the “King of Fruits.” They can best be portrayed as having the kind of passionfruit and grapes with the fragrance of a red rose. These fruit are very addictive.
Scientific name: Litchi chinensis
Common name: Lychee
How to grow and maintain Lychee:
Test the soil with a pH test kit before planting the lychee seeds. Lychee trees do best in an acidic soil with a pH around 5.5, but they will grow in soils with a pH as high as 7.5.
Keep in pot until late March or early April, and bring in if there is going to be a frost or freeze. Then the tree can be planted in the ground in a sunny location. While in the container, water every day, and once in the ground water every day until the root system is well established.
Lychee trees are moderately drought tolerant. However, newly planted lychee trees should be irrigated regularly during establishment. In the home landscape, trees will
perform well without supplemental irrigation after trees are established.
Fertilization: Use only a balanced organic fertilizer (very important), and fertilize lightly in spring and summer. If you want to speed the growth of the tree, fertilize more often. Do not plant other plants underneath lychee for the root system is very close to the surface and could be damaged. Conversely, mulch under the tree with a good native mulch or leaf mold.
The fruit grow in clusters on a branch. Cut the entire cluster when harvesting. This will also promote new growth and fruiting for the next year.