It’s red, heart-shaped and although not quite a sweet nothing to whisper in your true love’s ear, it’s sensuously sweet nonetheless and promises the same result. It’s the luscious litchi – the original fruit of love.
Fabled to be the world’s most romantic fruit, litchis are considered a symbol of love in China where they’ve been grown for the past 2 000 years. In fact, it was here in the eighth century that the classic love story between Imperial Consort Lady Yang and emperor at the time, Li Longji, played out.
The story goes that litchis were the favourite fruit of Lady Yang, one of the four beauties of ancient China and concubine of the emperor. But the fruit was only grown in southern China. So the emperor arranged for loads of litchis to be ferried on horseback, Pony Express-style, to his palace some 600 miles away throughout the litchi season.
Lady Yang’s love affair with litchis may well also be responsible for putting the fruit on the top 10 list of natural aphrodisiacs, with the promise of spicing things up in the bedroom.
South African litchi season is in full swing until March, so there’s no excuse not to show a little litchi love this Valentine’s Day. Kick off a special dinner with a chilled litchi and lettuce soup, followed by litchis with duck in a red Thai curry and cool it all down with litchi and rosewater ice.