Longan (Dimocarpus longan) is a tropical tree species that produces edible fruit. It is one of the better-known tropical members of the soapberry family (Sapindaceae), to which the lychee, rambutan, guarana, korlan, pitomba, Genip and ackee also belong. The fruit of the longan are similar to that of the lychee, but less aromatic in taste. It is native to Southern Asia.
The wild longan population have been decimated considerably by large-scale loggings in the past, and the species used to be listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. If left alone, longan tree stumps will resprout and the listing was upgraded to Near Threatened in 1998. Recent field data are inadequate for a contemporary IUCN assessment.
The longan is believed to originate from the mountain range between Myanmar and southern China. Other reported origins include India, Sri Lanka, upper Myanmar, north Thailand, Kampuchea (more commonly known as Cambodia), north Vietnam and New Guinea.
Its earliest record of existence draws back to the Han Dynasty in 200 BC. The emperor had demanded lychee and longan trees to be planted in his palace gardens in Shaanxi, but the plants failed. Four hundred years later, longan trees flourished in other parts of China like Fujian and Guangdong, where longan production soon became an industry.
Later on, due to immigration and the growing demand for nostalgic foods, the longan tree was officially introduced to Australia in the mid-1800s, Thailand in the late-1800s, and Hawaii and Florida in the 1900s. The warm, sandy-soiled conditions allowed for the easy growth of longan trees. This jump-started the longan industry in these locations.
Janka Hardness: Unknown. From our experience it is dense, hard, and similar to working with Lychee.