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Harvesting Longans

Mango season is coming to an end here in Southwest Florida, but the longans are ready to harvest!

Longan tree at the UF/IFAS Collier County Extension Grove, Ryals, J. 2021

This delicious fruit tree is well adapted to tropical climates where there are distinct wet and dry periods, making it a great tree to grow in Collier County.

Fruit Development

Longans are known to be erratic producers from year to year, but the following factors may be best for fruit development:

  •  low, non-freezing temperatures  (59°F; 15°C or less) and a dry period during the fall and winter (October–February)
  • warm temperatures (70–85°F; 21–29°C) during spring, followed by high summer temperatures (80–95°F; 27–35°C)
  • nonlimiting soil moisture

           (Crane, J., Balerdi, C., Sargent, S.,Maguire I.)

The fruit peel is tan/brown and thin, similar to a lychee, but smoother in texture. The white-translucent pulp is sweet and flowerly with one large, shiny seed.

Longan fruit and seed, Ryals, J. 2021

Fruit Thinning

This year (2021) was a strong fruit set in Collier County with an abundance of fruit developing on each panicle. However, excess fruit also forms smaller fruit. Removing about 50% of the set fruit early in the growing season results in large, more desirable fruits. The best time to thin is when fruit are ¼ to ½ inches (6–12 mm) in diameter. It’s also recommended to remove 1/2 to 2/3 of the distal (terminal) end of each panicle (Crane, J., Balerdi, C., Sargent, S.,Maguire I.).    

Last week I stopped by a longan farm here in Collier County and the owner and operator, Kim shared her longan fruit thinning tips. She shows us how to remove large portions of the fruit when they are about pea-sized and to not be afraid to really cut back the fruit for a more desirable crop.

Kim also notes that not all longans on one panicle ripen at the same time, another important reason for going through and selectively thinning.

Longan fruit cluster. Notice the “christmas tree” vs. “box” shape as noted in the video above, Ryals, J. 2021

Pruning Trees

You also want to selectively prune after harvest to control tree height and spread. Diseased, weak or dead branches should also be cut back. If the canopy of the tree becomes too dense, removing some branches will increase air circulation and light into the canopy. Pruning trees during the fall and winter stimulates new growth but can also prevent or reduce flowering in the spring. You also want to make sure your mature trees are pruned so they are not too tall. Limit their height to about 10 to 20 ft. Keeping them at a manageable height, and pruned correctly, increases their likelihood to survive hurricane force winds. Trees kept 10 -15 feet high and 15 -30 feet wide are also easier to care for and harvest, which means less equipment and intensive labor.

Harvesting

Longan harvest season in Southwest Florida is late July, August and at the latest, in early September. The fruit is harvested by hand in large clusters with about 1 foot of the branch behind the fruit-bearing panicle harvested along with it.  In the video below, Kim shows us how to harvest.

Longans don’t continue to ripen like a mango, so make sure they are plump and sweet before you pick them. Harvested fruit should be placed in the shade immediately and cooled as soon as possible. The fruit can be put in a plastic bag and stored 5-7 days in the refrigerator. Since the longan season and shelf-life is very short, you can also freeze, dehydrate, can or freeze-dry for later snacking.

Collier County longan farmer harvesting her crop, Ryals, J. 2021

For more information on growing, pests and disease of the longan, check out the resources below:

Ask IFAS: Longan (ufl.edu)

New Serious Pest of Lychee Trees Found in Florida – UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center (ufl.edu)