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Brewster Variety/Cultivar of Lychee

By Krystal Folino and Bill Mee

Also called Chen Zi, Chen Tze, or Royal Chen Purple

The second most common and popular commercial lychee variety or cultivar in South Florida is the Brewster which bears fruit somewhat reliably.

A Brewster fruit is medium or large, sweet and juicy. At peak ripeness the Brewster is truly delicious and in taste tests against other varieties consistently outranks all of the others.

The only complaint people have with the Brewster is that is tends to have a medium to large seed, however the fruit has comensurately more flesh, with an average of approximatly 74% flesh which is higher than many varieties with small or "chicken-tongue" seeds.

As Brewster fruit ripens the small raised bumps on the fruit surface gradually smooth out and the skin of the fruit turns from pinkish red to a bright purplish red. The inner skin, or endocarp, is distincly pinkish. The fruit is ellipse shaped with flat shoulders and a round or slightly pointed tip. The Brewster variety is resistant to anthracnose so the fruit doesn't have as many black spots on it that many other lychee varieties tend to have.

Typically, Brewster lychees in the northern hemisphere are ripe during the month of June and for last several years the season has ended during the 4th of July weekend in our grove in Broward County, Florida. The season for Brewsters is a little earlier for areas south of us and a little later in area to the north of us. For example Mexico's Brewster lychee season begins in April, a little earlier than us, while eastern coastal groves in Central Florida tend to still have Brewster fruit into the middle of July, a little later than us. The season for Brewsters in the southern hemisphere like in Australia or Brazil is late January.

The Brewster trees are vigorous growers with a hemispherical shape and upright, spreading habit of growth and wide crotch angles. The branches strong and grooved or ribbed. The leaves are medium green, flat and the edges are straight with an average of 6 leaves to a leaf stalk and new growth flushes are slightly reddish to light green.

The Brewster lychee is a "water type" so it grows best in areas where it will get a lot of irrigation or natural rainfall. The Brewster variety originated in China where it bears reliably in Fujian/Fukien along rivers and supposedly has a higher occurrence of shriveled or "chicken tongue" seeds. Don't worry about overwatering a Brewster lychee because they can even survive in standing water for at least a few days or up to about two weeks maximum.

Reverend Dr. William N. Brewster, a well liked missionary in China, imported this variety to South Florida between 1903 and 1906. He chose this variety because it did well in the northern limits of the lychee growing area in China and can withstand light frosts. The variety was originally called Chen Tze or Royal Chen Purple after the Chen family, a famous and historic lychee growing family in Guangdong province, and later renamed Brewster in the United States.

The Brewster is a great variety of lychee and our reigning favorite. The trees are easy to care for and the fruit is both beautiful and excellent tasting. We highly recommend the Brewster variety for commercial growing or edible landscape enjoyment.

This article was last updated on: January 10, 2004
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