The rambutan is a fruit that grows on tropical tree.
The word rambutan is derived from the Malay word rambut which means “hair”, a reference to the numerous hairy protuberances of the fruit.
The rambutan is native to the Indonesian region, and other regions of tropical Southeast Asia.
Around the 13th to 15th centuries, Arab traders, who played a major role in Indian Ocean trade, introduced rambutan into Zanzibar and Pemba of East Africa.
In the 19th century, the Dutch introduced rambutan from their colony in Southeast Asia to Suriname in South America.
Subsequently, the plant spread to tropical Americas, planted in the coastal lowlands of Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Cuba.
In 1912, rambutan was introduced to the Philippines from Indonesia.
The rambutan flourishes from sea-level to 500 or even 600 meters (1,600 or even 1,800 ft), in tropical, humid regions having well-distributed rainfall.
The rambutan tree reaches 15 to 25 meters (50 to 80 ft) in height, has a straight trunk to 60 cm (2 ft) wide, and a dense, usually spreading crown.
The evergreen leaves are alternate, pinnately compound, 7 to 30 cm (2.75 to 12 in) long.
The flowers are small, from 2.5 to 5 mm, apetalous, discoidal, and borne in erect terminal panicles from 15 to 30 cm wide. Aromatic rambutan flowers are highly attractive to many insects, especially bees.
The bright-red, oval fruit, about the size of a small hen’s egg, is covered with long, soft spines and has a tasty acid pulp.
The fruit are usually eaten fresh and also used in making jams and jellies, or canned.
There are about 50 calories in 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of rambutans.
This fruit is a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C. It also contains a good amount of copper and offers smaller amounts of manganese, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, iron and zinc as well.
Thailand is the largest producer of rambutan followed by Indonesia and Malaysia.
Evergreen rambutan trees with their abundant colored fruit make beautiful landscape specimens.
It is also a popular garden fruit tree and propagated commercially in small orchards.
Though a close relative of the lychee and an equally desirable fruit, this member of the Sapindaceae is not nearly as well-known.