Lychee

This year has been a bumper year for summer fruits: the mangoes went wild last month-- we were spoiled for the sweet ripe juicy fruits, nectar on our mouths and running from hands to elbows, leaning over the porch railings to enjoy them cubed and inverted, like this:
And now it's the lychee. 

We have two giant trees who, in nearly five years at this house, have never given us more than a handful of lychee, but for whatever reason this year are bedecked like bacchus, long red clumps of the fruit hanging like bangles all over the trees.

We started picking them the second they had any meat on them-- they were still mostly green and very tart and juicy. Now they've matured into fat red globes, brimming with juice as soon as you peel away a bit of the hard bumpy skin. 

From across the lawn they all look perfect: cascades of red rubies like dangling earrings. I drag cloth grocery bags and my extendable fruit picker over.

A little closer and you can see where wild parakeets and doves have pecked off some of the fruits, and where other people have already gleaned, and the bunches just a little further on seem better, fuller, riper, fatter. 

We find a suitable spot and I have the kids watch the ground carefully while I reach up with the picker, extended twenty feet up into the branches, and claw at the bunches to snag berries in the narrow wire fingers:
I pluck some berries into the little wire basket, and yank others loose. The girls have to watch the ground and chase the ones that fall. There are hundreds on the ground already but no matter how beautiful and whole they may seem, they are swarming with tiny maggots (who bite, incidentally), so they have to watch carefully to only pick up the ones that have just, in this last second, fallen from the tree. Sometimes they fall like little rough-skinned bombs-- one hit me on the face with a sharp sting, and when I looked in the mirror later tonight to brush my teeth I saw a pink welt the size of a quarter. 

Tonight we filled a grocery bag with them, and then sat on the lawn and sorted them into "perfect" and "possibly questionable"-- with cracked skins or small black spots or little white oozy holes. Then I used my what were once my favorite craft scissors but which have now taken up residence in the kitchen to cut the offending parts off, and peel the rest. These I froze. 

Tomorrow we should really spend the morning out there, fill bags and bags, and fill up jars and freezers and the dehydrator-- really show our gratitude for this short season of bounty. Just in case it's another five years before the trees go off again.

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