Rambutan on the Big Island

The Rambutan has an unusual, almost alien-like appearance, with its bright red skin and numerous red pliable spines. But this fruit hides a delicious flesh inside and is definitely one to try during your Big Island stay. 

Where did the rambutan come from?

The rambutan is not endemic to Hawaii. The fruit is native to Southeast Asia and is a relative of the lychee, longan and mamoncillo. The name rambutan comes from the Malay-Indonesian word for hair ‘rambut’, due to the fruit being covered in hair-like spines.

The rambutan

The rambutan tree is an evergreen tree that can grow to almost 80 ft. The fruit range in size from 1-2.5 inches in length. The flesh of the fruit is translucent and contains a single seed. The rambutan is eaten raw by simply cutting open and then extracting the flesh inside (you can also pull apart the skin from the middle if you don’t have a knife). The entire fruit can also be cooked and even the seed is edible.

The flesh itself is sweet and fragrant with a floral flavor. The flesh is jelly-like in consistency and is super healthy, containing vitamin C, iron and potassium. It’s often used in desserts, like sorbets and puddings as well as in curries and other savory dishes. Their shelf-life is short and they are often made into jams and jellies.

You will often find rambutan at farmers markets rather than at your local grocery store as the fruit themselves don’t travel well. Like lychee, they are even better when chilled before eating.

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