A close relative of the lychee, the rambutan is a tropical fruit that’s sweet, juicy and nutritious.
The rambutan is oval-shaped with a shell that has rubbery spines, making it look hairy. They are typically red in color, but can also be maroon, yellowish-red, orange-yellow or pure yellow. The hair-like covering gave the fruit its name, as “rambut” means “hair” in the Malay language. Inside the shell is a whitish, translucent sweet flesh surrounding a woody textured seed that is bitter. To enjoy this fruit, make a cut around the middle of the rind (not cutting into the flesh) and pull it off the flesh.
It is native to Malaysia and cultivated throughout southeast Asia, some parts of India, and the coastal lowlands of Ecuador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Colombia, Trinidad and Cuba. The rambutan tree thrives in hot, humid climates with well-distributed rainfall, and the main crop is harvested in June.
The rambutan is rich in vitamin C and also is a good source of iron, potassium, beta carotene, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, niacin, fiber and protein. The pulp also contains strong antioxidants called flavonoids which are known to have anti-inflammatory attributes.