The rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum), is an exotic fruit that can be found in Indonesia and many other countries located close to equator. The rambutan is native to Southeast Asia and is closely related to the lychee and longan. The skin of this fruit is red and covered with hairy spines. The flesh is semitransparent or pale pink and has a mainly sweet flavor. Rambutan trees require a hot wet climate to grow, and are unlikely to thrive if temperatures drop below 15 degrees. High humidity is also necessary or the tree will drop its leaves to save water. Rambutan trees bear twice annually (once in late fall and early winter and in late spring and early summer). Fruit is harvested by cutting away the whole bunch together with a small amount of wood to encourage new leaf growth.

Rambutan has a nice taste when it’s raw. It can be used to make jam by cooking equal weights of flesh and sugar together with sufficient lime juice (about 5%). Also it can be used to make juice, ice-cream, sorbets, jams and jellies, yogurts and many others tasty things. Skin of Rambutan is also useful and used in Indonesian traditional medicine. The fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C. The flavor is sweet and very aromatic. The flavor can be described as a cross between lychee, mangosteen and kiwi.

Rambutan is also a good source of copper. Although human body require only a small amount of copper, this trace mineral is crucial for the proper functioning of our bodies. Copper is also crucial for healthy hair growth, and foods rich in copper, such as rambutans, may help prevent hair loss, intensify hair color, and prevent premature graying of hair. Because of that and also because of its look (leathery hairy skin of the fruit is reddish and covered with fleshy pliable spines), rambutan is often called “hairy fruit”. Actually the word Rambutan translates from Malay language as “hair”.

The fruit is ripe when the skin has turned red. The "hairs" are allowed to be a bit dark colored. The fruit do not store well, but if kept at 10 C, sealed in plastic with high humidity, they can be kept for about 2 weeks. To preserve most of its flavor and nutritional value, the rambutan fruit is best eaten raw. Just peel off the hairy skin, but be careful not to eat the bitter seed that is hidden inside the white flesh.

Author: Mikhail Pavlov
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