The tree is called by many names, the primary one being Rambutan. Here are some others, but there are several different vernacular names to the small indigenous communities that surround Southeast Asia.
- ramboutan or ramboutanier in French
- ramboetan in Dutch
- ramboostan in India
- shao tzu in Chinese
- chom chom or vai thieu in Vietnam
- ser mon, or chle sao mao to Kampucheans
The Rambutan fruit was introduced to Zanzibar and Pemba by Arab traders. It’s seeds have been spread throughout and now Rambutan is grown in the following countries:
- Carribean Islands
- Central America
- Sri Lanka
- United States – Hawaii
The rambutan tree is an evergreen that grows from 10-20m in height. The leaves alternate between pinnate and leaflets. The flowers of the tree are small. The trees can be either male, that only produce staminate flowers (i.e., no fruit), female, that produce flowers that function as females or the hermaphroditic variety that produce mostly female flowers and a small percentage of male flowers.
The fruit is an oval drupe and born into a pendant type cluster. The skin of the fruit is usually red, but there are orange and yellow varieties of the skin that exist too. The fruit rambutan is incased in a spiny outer core. Once removed, a translucent watery flesh is revealed. The tree is a popular garden tree, but is also grown in rambutan orchards. It is a well-known Southeast Asian fruit, as common as apples in colder climates, and therefore readily available in the Southeast Asia part of the world.
The best rambutan is picked by the full branch rather than the individual fruits—it lasts longer and tastes better that way. The individual fruit is susceptible to rot and pests, whereas when picked as a bundle it doesn’t rot nearly as quickly.
More on the Rambutan Cultivation and Uses.
More of the scientific stuff on the Rambutan Tree (Nephelium lappaceum).
Rambutan is used as a fresh fruit but is also used in jams and jellies and is sold canned. Do you have excellent Rambutan recipes? Please share your recipe.
Because of its high fat and oil content, it is valuable in the manufacture of soap. The roots, bark and leaves are used in the production of dye and various medicines.