Rambutan ("Nephelium lappaceum")

Posted by Jordan | Wednesday, November 19, 2008 | , , | 5 comments »

This is a non plant-related post regarding a tropical fruit that I recently found at the grocery store. Annah and I had purchased a freeze-dried variety at a nearby Trader Joe's Store but this was the first time I was able to find the whole fresh fruit for sale at a grocery store.

What is a rambutan? You may be thinking that it looks like something from a Dr. Seuss book, eh? I think it does. Well, according to Wikipedia:

The rambutan (IPA: [ramˈbu.t̪ɑn], Nephelium lappaceum) is a medium-sized tropical tree in the family Sapindaceae, and the fruit of this tree. It is probably native to Southeast Asia, although its precise natural distribution is unknown. It is closely related to several other edible tropical fruits including the Lychee, Longan and Mamoncillo. It is believed to be native to the Malay Archipelago. Rambutan in Indonesian or Malay literally means hairy or hairy fruit caused by the 'hair' that covers this fruit. In Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, it is known as mamón chino. There is a second species regularly for sale at Malay markets which is known as "wild" rambutan. It is a little smaller than the usual red variety and is colored yellow.
and from Rambutan.com:
The rambutan, Nephelium lappaceum, is a fruit considered exotic to people outside of its native range. To people of Malaysia, Thailand, the Phillippines, Vietnam, Borneo, and other countries of this region, the rambutan is a relatively common fruit the same way an apple is common to many people in cooler climates. This may change for the rambutan over time as availability and distribution improve.
The package, which contained four rambutan, sold for $2.50, so each individual fruit cost 62 cents. This is expensive but I thought it would be worth it since they are only in season for a few weeks or months. This specific variety was grown in Guatemala.

I wonder how fresh these rambutan actually were since they were not nearly as red as freshly picked rambutan, but that is to be expected for fruit that had to be shipped all the way here to Minnesota.

According to Rambutan.com:
The best fruit have little or no black forming on the tips of the soft spines...[but also explains how...] The soft spines, or spinterns, are safe to handle and lose a lot of water after the fruit has been picked. For this reason, to hold them for any length of time in refrigeration requires some sort of plastic film to slow down the moisture loss. The spinterns may turn black within days after harvest but the fruit inside remains quite fresh and tasty for several days or a week longer. If the humidity is high, then the fruit can be held at room temperature in a plastic bag that is not sealed but rather loosely closed.
Perhaps the quality of these rambutan were indeed sufficient to adequately experience the flavor of a raw rambutan.

Regardless, peeling a rambutan is quite simple. Take a knife and lightly cut the outer skin all the way around the entire fruit.

Once you have cut around the entire fruit you can peel the skin open.

Pull the two pieces completely apart and you will see the white fruit inside.

Just by looking closely at this fruit you can tell that it will be juicy. It also happens to be rather sweet and delicious.

Once all of the flesh from the fruit has been removed it will look like this.

Annah and I would try to grow a plant from this seed if were living in a warmer climate as well as an area where the plant would grow. This is what it would look like if we were able to grow our own!

If you are able to find rambutan in your area and you have not tried it before then you should!

Photo Credits: Top picture of rambutan fruit is from Wikipedia, which was denoted as being in the public domain. The Photos of the rambutan being picked from the tree(s) are from the United States Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Center.


  1. Zoë // November 19, 2008 at 3:50 PM  

    They are delicious, taste a lot like Lychees too

    I grew up in Singapore and we used to pick these all over the place, doubt we could grow them in the UK though.

  2. Fern @ Life on the Balcony // November 20, 2008 at 12:54 PM  

    What a funny looking fruit! I've never seen anything like that at regular supermarkets here in Southern California, but I wonder if Asian markets carry them?

  3. Jordan // November 26, 2008 at 2:10 PM  

    Zoë - Yes, they do have a similar taste to Lychees, which I also like. Growing them in the UK would likely be a difficult task...just as it would to grow them in Minnesota.

    Fern - sorry for the delay in responding to this question, but yes, I would think Asian markets might carry them. You should see if you can find some to try!

  4. amelie chen // December 16, 2010 at 2:37 PM  

    nice pictures. i was doing my project on the rambutans. WIsh to know if u mind i sharing your photos with others? it would be an eye opener for them.

  5. Wong Chien Fui // December 21, 2011 at 9:41 AM  

    omg, 2.50usd can get 2 kilograms of rambutan here in Malaysia... of course, imported fruits such as grapes and cherries are expensive in our country too.