Litchi time

This week The Family found litchis at our bhajiwala. When I was a child, litchis (Litchi chinensis) would herald the beginning of a wonderful period of the year. Two weeks of litchis, a couple of months of mangoes, and then the monsoon: that is the rhythm of summer in the sub-Himalayan plains of India. I didn’t realize then that this seemingly unchanging marker of time was historically recent.

The litchis that we eat originally come from southern China, the region of Hainan, Guangxi, Guangdong, and Yunnan, and north Vietnam. They still grow wild in virgin forests in this region. They were taken to northern China as early as the first century BCE. Litchis were first cultivated in Myanmar only as late as the 18th century CE, and were brought to India a few decades later, at the very beginning of the 19th century. Even now, most of the acreage given over to litchi in India is in UP, Bihar, Assam, and Tripura.

There were two varieties that I specially remember from long ago: the rose scented Shahi of the first week, and the Purbi from the second week. I suppose the Shahi variety was named after the nawabs of Awadh, since litchis arrived in India after the decline of the Mighals. The few that finally arrived on our table this week were the sweet but thick-skinned Purbi.

Author: I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

11 thoughts on “Litchi time”

  1. An interesting bit of history there, IJK. I recall feasting on an abundance of litchis till about a decade ago. Sadly, the availability of litchis is only going down. For the past few years we have been getting litchis grown in Dahanu and Palghar. Incidentally, Fariyas Lonavala has a large number of litchi trees on their property and they use the fruit in desserts on their own buffet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you’re right. That’s something that I don’t understand. Although we are exporting more, the tonnage meant for domestic consumption has increased. Perhaps it is going to the food industry and not the food market.

      Liked by 1 person

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