Closely related to the lychee, rambutans are small, oval to round fruits, averaging 3 to 5cm in diameter, and grow in loose, hanging clusters of 10 to 20 fruits. There are many different varieties of Rambutan with unique appearances, ranging in colour from red, orange, yellow to a blend of these hues.
The distinctive outer shell is soft and flexible with stiff hair like bristles.
They have a soft gelatinous milky white flesh, translucent in colour surrounding a central seed. Rambutans are aromatic and have a sweet, fruity flavour with mild acidity, containing subtle notes of strawberries and grapes.
Botanically identified as Nephelium lappaceum, rambutan are exotic fruits with a peculiar outer appearance found on evergreen trees belonging to the Sapindaceae family native to Southeast Asia. It is no surprise that Rambutans are part of the lychee family due to the similarities in taste.
Thailand is the largest producer of Rambutan, accounting for over half of the world’s supply.
The name Rambutan originates from the Malaysian word "Rambut" translating to mean "hair" and their are currently an amazing 200 varieties of rambutan varying int colour, taste, size, flavour and appearance.
Rambutan trees are considered an ornamental variety, valued for their colour contrast between the bright fruits and dark green leaves.
Rambutans are native to Indonesia and Malaysia and have been growing wild since ancient times. Between the 13th and 15th centuries, experts believe Arab traders encountered the fruits through trade routes and introduced Rambutan into the Tanzanian archipelago of Zanzibar, located off the coast of East Africa.
The fruits were also spread throughout Southeast Asia, Oceania, and were later brought to South America in the 19th century.
More recent, Rambutan can be found worldwide, including tropical regions of Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia, Africa, Central America, the Caribbean, South America, and Hawaii.
The fruits are primarily cultivated in Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia, but they are also increasing in cultivation in Central America for export into the United States.
Preparation & Storage
Rambutans are best consumed straight out of hand in order to showcase their sweet, distinctive flavour. The outer rind can be removed by hand or with a knife revealing the inner flesh. The seed should be discarded.