A somewhat less edible fruit of the family Meliaceae.
Small, white or pale-yellow, fleshy, mostly bisexual.
--Julia F. Morton, Fruits of warm climates, pp. 201-3.
, and mostly bisexual
to boot!? Try telling
that to the Thai
s, who rank longkong
(ลองกอง) only slightly below
the legendary durian
in desirability. The Malay
s feel the same
way about the langsat
and the duku
, the Filipino
s of Luzon
crazy about their lanzone
, and I have it on good evidence that the
causes mass hysteria in southern India
. You'd be
excused for thinking that "longkong" sounds awfully Chinese
, but no,
while the fruit is certainly known it's usually dubbed langsha
(浪沙) after the Malay. Even the botanists are confused, since
they've dubbed it both Lansium domesticum
The Unpeeling of the Longkong
So what is
this convolutedly named fruit that sounds like a gorilla
? Examined from the outside,
longkong grow in bunches bearing a marked similarity to large grape
the big difference
being that they're a dusky and often mottled yellow-brown. If all
you have to go on is a picture, you might be excused for thinking
that you're looking at the confusingly similarly named longan
but no; unlike the scaly longan, the longkong's skin is soft and
yielding and the innards look quite different too.
But don't pop one into your mouth quite yet: the skin is in fact
mildly poisonous. Instead, pluck one off the bunch and pinch it
at the pointy end, and the thin but rubbery skin will peel off.
And the similarity to grapes
and longan ends there: the translucent to white fruit inside is
split into 5-6 garlic-like separable segments.
Peel off the skin until the fruit is revealed in its naked glory,
wrap your lips gently around it and suck. They'll
pop off and shatter, releasing their delicious half-acidic,
half-sweet juices. But chew carefully: most longkong hide a
large, bright green and very bitter seed or two, which may provide a rude
awakening if bitten into.
Crouching Longkong, Hidden Durian
After her snide remarks, Dr. Morton does note that the longkong
", an apt description as even in steamy Thailand
only the southern provinces (in particular Narathiwat
) can grow
the longkong well.
Longkong season in Thailand is from September
to December, although in Malaysia some varieties squeeze in two growing
seasons and fruit both in June-July and December-January.
Like most tropical fruits,
longkong is highly perishable: at room temperature it lasts all of
4 days, a period that refrigeration can extend to a maximum of
two weeks. Due to this, I have never seen longkong outside
South-East Asia (they're quite rare even in Singapore), although
there appear to be small-scale farms in Hawaii and Puerto Rico.