The longan ( pinyin: lóngyǎn; literally: "dragon eye"), is so named because it resembles an eyeball when its fruit is shelled (the black seed shows through the translucent flesh like a pupil/iris). The seed is small, round and hard, and of an enamel-like, lacquered black. The fruit is sweet, juicy and succulent in superior agricultural varieties and, apart from being eaten fresh. The taste is different from lychees; while longans have a drier sweetness; lychees are often messily juicy with a more tropical, sour sweetness. The seed and the shell are not consumed.
The fully ripened, freshly harvested shell is bark-like, thin, and firm, making the fruit easy to shell by squeezing the fruit out as if one is "cracking" a sunflower seed. When the shell has more moisture content and is more tender, the fruit becomes less convenient to shell. The tenderness of the shell varies due to either premature harvest, variety, weather conditions, or transport/storage conditions.