The longan fruit comes from the Dimocarpus longan tree, and the fruit is known as ‘dragon eyes’ because of its round shape and translucent flesh, and the seed which resembles an eye. The tree originates from Mayanmar, southern China, southwest India, and the Indochinese peninsula.
The outside, rough shell is thin and easy to peel. The flavor of the longan is sweet, very juicy, although less juicy than its relative, the lychee. The longan is also related to the rambutan.
Growing Longan Trees
The longan tree is in the soapberry family and grows to be a lush tree with a heavy canopy and evergreen leaves. It is a tropical tree, but older trees can withstand temperature drops to 28 degrees F. The younger trees are less cold tolerant. The tree grows up to 50 feet or more in ideal conditions, with a 45 feet canopy span (or as big as the tree’s height). Longans are tolerant of drought, but not tolerant of water logged conditions. It is a fast growing tree, so ensure the tree has space to grow.
Longan trees are propogated via seed or air layering (marcotting), although air layering will produce best results as cultivars are not true to seed. To germinate fresh seeds, place them in small pots filled with peat moss or seed starting soil mix, keep warm and protected, and place in brightly lit location. Fruit from seedlings will take about 5 to 6 years or more to produce. Air layering will produce a mini tree of the original, and will bear fruit in about 2 to 4 years in ideal conditions.
The longan fruit grows in drooping clusters with spherical fruit. There are three flower types in the longan: staminate (functionally male), pistallate (functionally female), and hermaphroditic (bisexual). The male flowers open first.
- Kohala – From Hawaii. The fruit is large and the seed is small, the flesh is sweet and aromatic.
- Wu Yuan (Black Ball) – Small fruit, sour flavor and acidic, seedlings are often used as rootstocks. Fruit is used in canning.
- Kao Yuan – Similar to Wu Yuan, but the fruit quality is better. This fruit is used primarily for canning as well.
- Ship’i – Large fruit, not as flavorful, but has a valued later harvesting season than other longans.
Harvesting Longan Fruit
The time from the flowering to actual harvest picking is about 150 to 190 days. The longan fruit stays fresher longer if left on the branch, so when harvesting – pick very near to the time you’ll eat them. The fruit doesn’t ripen further off the tree, so pick when the fruit cluster is ripe. Chill after picking if you aren’t eating them immediately, and they will keep for about a week in the refrigerator.
Crane, Jonathon H., et al. “Longan Growing in the Florida Home Landscape.” EDIS New Publications RSS, University of Florida, The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), 12 Dec. 2016, edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg049. Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.
“Longan.” Longan, Purdue University Center for New Crops and Plant Products, 25 Sept. 2017, www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/longan.html. Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.
“Longan.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Sept. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longan. Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.
Vieth, Robert, mater gardener. “Longan.” University of California Cooperative Extension Ventura, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California, ceventura.ucanr.edu/Com_Ag/Subtropical/Minor_Subtropicals/Longan/. Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.