Rambutan season has started!!! The first harvests of this aram1wonderful fruit are starting to hit the local markets. Last Saturday I purchased a very fresh bunch of rambutan grown in Batangas or Laguna at a still pricey PHP80 a kilo at a local market. Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum) is believed to be native to Malaysia and Indonesia (hence its name being derived from the Malay word rambut or hair) and thrives in the Philippines in Mindanao, Palawan, Mindoro and more recently in Laguna and Batangas. Although the season is usually from August to October, as with most summer fruits this year, rambutan seems to be ripening a little earlier following a really hot summer and a nice rainy start to the wet season. A relative of the lychee and longan, rambutan is distinguished by a spectacular peel that appears to have tons of “hair” and is either bright red, yellow or a mixture of both with tinges of green as well.

Fresh rambutans look alive and sprightly, almost creature like. aram2The fruit I bought on Saturday were picked within the past 24 hours. Still on their woody stems, the bunches of fruit looked absolutely wonderful. Though they keep well in a refrigerator for several days, the hairs wilt and dry up and the fruit looks a lot less appetizing from the outside. Because of this, the fruit is not typically exported outside of Southeast Asia and it is very rare that you see it in the West. Probably why it hasn’t acquired an English name either…hmm…what would some of the likely options be: hairy red fruit, spiky fruit, bad hair day fruit? Inside the “hairy” skin is a pearly white and translucent fruit/pulp that can be incredibly sweet or sweet/sour. The meat is attached to an inedible seed, though I read that in Thailand they have perfected the art of extracting just the yummy pulp (removing the seed, then they sell these already peeled and de-seeded). For the Thai royal family, kitchen staff used to remove the seeds and return the pulp to the skins to make life easier for the pampered royals…nice…I wish someone did that for me here…

While I have only eaten this fruit fresh, it seems other aram3countries have started to can it and its juice for local and export consumption. Others also have started to toy with the fruit in cooked desserts… Rambutan also comes in a surprisingly yellow variety… I saw some a couple of years ago and they were stunning. Apparently some growers in Los Banos have started to raise the all yellow variety. How would I rate this first bunch of rambutan fruit for the season? About a 8 out of 10. They were extremely fresh, sweetish sour (I have had sweeter) and juicy – a good sign that as the season peaks the quality should get much better. Sources: Desmond Tate’s Tropical Fruits and Doreen Fernandez’s Fruits of the Philippines.


20 Responses

  1. Thanks for the informative piece! I had heard my Malaysian former roommate talk about longan and always wondered what it was.

    As for rambutan, it brings back memories of my childhood as my mom always brought home a basketful of rambutan whenever she came back from one of her work-related trips down south. Good times, good eats.

  2. After years in the States, my sister-in-law chanced upon some rambutan in a US Market and bought it at $10 per pound. My brother-in-law was aghast when he learned how much it cost considering that it didn’t look at all appealing with the brown wilted hair. It was however still nice and succulent inside. Now her children are pestering her to buy some mor “hairy ball.”

  3. I wonder if rambutan and lychee’s and longans are of similar families. All three have fruits encased in relatively easy to peel coverings, have pale/transluscent meat, and a brown nut seed. If anyone else is a fruit-biologist, botanist, what is the connection between these three?
    I didn’t start liking rambutan until I had a really sweet batch in 1998, somewhere in cebu. Until then I found them to be monstrously funny looking.

  4. Mila, rambutans, longans (Dimocarpus longan) and lychees (Litchi chinensis formerly Nephelium litchi) are all related and part of the same genus. Lychees are the most cultivated, have the biggest fruit (sans skins) and are the most well known of the three. Longans are generally smaller than lychees and have smaller seeds and less distinct flavor . Rambutans are more common to Malaysia and can have bigger seeds. Not sure why longans and lychees have scaly hard flat skins and rambutans the hairy epidermis… I guess some sets of human cousins can look pretty different from each other too!

  5. we can buy rambutan here — unbelievably steep prices though, but labeled “rambutan”. when we were in manila in ’97 with an American friend, i snacked on these while he and hubby talked shop, and in the middle of their conversation he stopped and asked me, horrified, “what in the world are you stuffing your face with?” he thought i was eating some sort of bug LOL. this is our friend who can’t eat whole fish or lobster because “i can’t eat anything that’s staring back at me.” wonderful informative post!

  6. we are conducting an investigatory project about the nutritional value of the rambutan seed. Is it really inedible?they say, it contains saponin.How colud we remove the saponin so that the seed will be edible

  7. yep… how can we remove the saponin?… we’re conducting a study about its seed as cooking oil… could somebody help us?

  8. 2 Juky 2007

    Hi, I am a grower of this Rambutan fruit in Kumalarang, Zamboabga del Sur, Mindanao, Philippines

    we are harvesting now but the wholesalers are heartless they are buying from us ex-Farm for only P20.00/kilo and selling it retail for P50-60/kilo ($1 is to Pesos: 46)

    It’s better that we just give this away. Damn . . . we are to harvest around 5,000 kilos. looking for someone to help us in marketing this fruit. We are ahead of the season and can consider to be the only ones with this variety in the area . . . Semathan and S2 varieties, the ones where the pulp can be peeled off from the seed.

  9. we’re conducting an investigatory project regarding rambutan seeds as an alternative for peanut butter, is its seed edible or not? and that saponin how can we remove that? we’re puzzled to continue the project…hoping for answers…thanks!

  10. My husband, Jon works with a gentleman by the name of Narin & he give my husband 2 of these fruits & we both loved it. Very juicy, sweet much better than a grape. Enjoyed it!!!!!!!

  11. I am a Rambutang farm owner .And I am having a great trouble with this bats.
    I have heard that Malaysian and Philippine growers use some electronic device to chase away Bats(Radar system or Ultra sound).Can anybody help me by giving me the details of this device and source to buy them.?

    Thanks with Regards


  12. Shantha,

    Bat are easy to control or drive away. Use these practical techniques, to wit:
    1. Hang a used white cloth near the tree canopy or put/hang a used white t-shirt inside the canopy so bat can detect that there’s someone watching;
    2. Place a net or string or a nylon with hanging hooks around your perimeter or tree canopy, when the bats come around, they get hooked or entangled with it;
    3. Light a storm lantern early evening until dusk and let it hang inside the canopy cover. It scares the bats away. It’s also applicable for the Lanzones.
    4. Try to make a small sized cannon, using carbide with a little water and ignite – explosion would scare the bats;

    Please give me feedback if what I suggested were ok for you.



  13. I have Rambutan seeds, fresh from Costa Rica. Have them arriving in Miami, next week. Who wants?? Email me…
    They go fast!! Hurry!!

  14. nice post.
    i love rambutan. it was also featured in the tv-series ugly betty (season 3 episode 6 – can be viewed on youtube), but it had a fictional name called “tico berry” and was said to be supermodel adriana lima’s beauty food ;-)

  15. we r trying to make something out of rambutan seeds. . can anybody help me? ideas or suggestion?

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