The rambutan ( Nephelium lappaceum ) derives its name from the Malay word “ rambut ” meaning “hair.” The rambutan skin, which may be yellow or red when ripe, is covered with many curved or fleshy whiskers, giving the fruit a hairy appearance. The fruit is usually oval to round and are borne on bunches. The skin separates easily from the flesh. Rambutan flesh is firm, white and translucent and is sweet and juicy. Preferred varieties have flesh that does not stick to the skin of the seed.
The rambutan grows on a bushy, wide-crowned tree that may grow up to a height of 2m. The tree thrives in the tropics in sandy loam soils rich in organic matter. Budded trees begin fruiting after 2-3 years and reach optimum production after 8-10 years. Rambutan is pollinated by insects, especially honey bees. It is a seasonal fruit.
Other than being eaten fresh, rambutan can also be canned in fruit cocktails or made into jams.
* The family Sapindaceae includes about 125 genera and more than 1,000 species of trees and shrubs that are widely distributed throughout the tropics and warm regions. Rambutan is related to pulasan (N. rambutan-ake (Labill) Leenh), longan (Dimocarpus longan Lour) and lychee (Litchi chinensis Sonn.)