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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I have tried in vain to find a proper definition for the terms "loamy" and "lychee." Lychee has been described as an Asian fruit, but I am unable to find a proper taste definition for it. Can you help?

—Allison A., Virginia

Dear Allison,

Sure, I can help—take two lychees and call me in the morning. (Sorry, I've been itching to use that line for a while now.)

First, "loamy" refers to a pleasant earthy note. Not the same thing as "dirty," "loamy" is a sweet, dark earth odor, less pungent than potting soil and not as aromatic as truffles.

You're right that lychee (also spelled "litchi") is a tropical fruit native to southern China. It's about the size of a walnut, covered with a red rind that's inedible. Inside, the fruit is milky white and juicy, with a firm texture (and a seed in the center that shouldn't be eaten). The fruit is sweet and fragrant. Think of a sensual, musky, honeyed note with pungent, aromatic overtones that are kind of like roses or even Muscat grapes, if you know what those are like.

While fresh lychees might be hard to find outside of Asian supermarkets, you can find canned lychees in most large supermarkets that have an Asian food section. For only a couple of bucks, you could buy a can and experience them for yourself. That's my advice when it comes to just about any taste descriptor you're unfamiliar with—say, "cassis," "eucalyptus" or whatever: try to get your hands on the real thing!

—Dr. Vinny

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