Not a lot of people from the Western part of the world are familiar with the rambutan fruit, mostly because it is native to Malay countries, such as Malaysia and Indonesia. It is primarily known for its similarities with the lychee and the longan fruit, particularly its transparent-whitish flesh and the seed in the middle. This is because these fruits are actually close relatives.1
Although they are similar, the outer cover or shell is what sets these three fruits apart. Nevertheless, the rambutan fruit can be easily identified because of its green and red spikes that resemble hair, which is interesting because the name “Rambutan” comes from the Malay word for “hair.”2
The rambutan tree usually grows up to about 80 feet in height and thrives in tropical climates, mostly in Asia where these fruits are abundant. This plant has been cultivated in different parts of the globe as well. Rambutan trees have been planted in specific parts of Australia and Central America.3 Rambutan season actually occurs twice a year: from June to August and December to January.4
Rambutan vs. Lychee: How to Distinguish These Fruits
Although rambutan and lychee come from the same family, there are distinct differences when it comes to their composition and the nutrients they contain. The fruits can be easily differentiated because of the lychee’s bumpy skin and the rambutan’s spiky appearance.
Lychee contains dietary fiber and an abundance of vitamins and minerals, like phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamins D and C. It also contains oligonol, a polyphenol that helps in improving a person’s endurance and immunity.
Rambutan, on the other hand, contains a high amount of fiber – higher than that of lychee. While rambutan does not contain oligonol, it boasts a high amount of iron, which helps keep the cardiovascular system in optimal condition.5
When talking about flavor, some people say that rambutan tastes blander and denser than lychee. Some say that they taste similar; others claim that rambutan tastes sweeter.6 Nevertheless, both of these fruits exude a sweet aroma and an even sweeter taste.
While lychee and rambutan may look alike when their outer skins are removed, they have distinct differences which make the playing ground quite equal in terms of their health benefits.
Uses of the Rambutan Fruit and Plant
Rambutan’s uses don’t necessarily focus on the fruit alone, as the different parts of the tree can be used in lots of ways. Here are some examples:
- Rambutan leaves can be used for basic hair care. Mash the leaves into a paste, add water and squeeze the extract. Apply the extract to your hair and scalp. This will help improve your hair health.7
The leaves can be used to treat fever as well. Boil a few rambutan leaves in 3 glasses of water, and then strain. Drink this concoction three times a day to help your body recover. They may also work for relieving headaches. Mash leaves and apply on your temples to help with migraines.8
- Rambutan seeds can be used to uplift your skin. Mash the seeds into a paste and apply on your skin to achieve a clearer and a more even-looking complexion. Using rambutan seeds on your skin regularly will help your skin become softer and healthier.9
The seeds can also be used to help patients with diabetes. Take the seeds, chop them into small pieces and allowed to dry for a few days. Grind the seeds into a fine powder. Mix it with hot water and drink. This will help you maintain your blood sugar at healthy levels.10
Health Benefits of Rambutan
The rambutan fruit is a conglomeration of vitamins and minerals, all encased in a sweet and juicy little package. Despite its small size, it actually packs a considerable amount of vitamin C, which is important for helping keep your immune system healthy and flushing out toxins.
It is also a good source of copper. Even though the body needs only a limited amount of it in the system, copper works together with iron in keeping your blood vessels, immune system, bones and the production of red blood cells at peak condition.11 Rambutan is also a good source of iron,12 which is why ingesting this fruit is especially useful for the maintenance and the production of red blood cells.
If anyone ever asks you, “Is rambutan good for you?” you’ll know that your answer is yes. Other rambutan fruit benefits include:
- High Fiber Content. The high fiber content of rambutan aids the digestive system in food metabolism, preventing constipation. It is also low in calories, which helps promote weight loss and restrain sudden hunger pangs.13
- Antiseptic Qualities. Rambutan is famous for its antiseptic properties that help the body fight off infections. The fruit also contains high amounts of antioxidants, which makes it both antimicrobial and anticarcinogenic.14
- Kills Intestinal Parasites. According to traditional Chinese medicine, rambutan can help expel parasites in the gut because of its antifungal properties. 15
- Contains Phosphorus. Rambutan is a good source of phosphorus, which helps in bone formation and the maintenance of your bones and teeth.16
- Contains Gallic Acid. The rambutan rind contains a high amount of gallic acid, which functions as a free radical scavenger. This compound helps prevent cancer and oxidative damage.17
Tips in Growing Rambutan
Location and temperature are the two things that should be taken into consideration if you’re considering planting your own rambutan tree. Rambutan growing is not an easy task because of its sensitivity to temperature and humidity, since it’s primarily a tropical fruit.
Places like Florida and California are typically among the best states where you can grow rambutan because of their warm climate, but you should still note that sudden dips in temperature may have an effect on the rambutan tree.18
If you’re planning on growing rambutan from seed, equip yourself with a small pot with drainage holes, soil mixed with sand and organic compost. Cover the seed lightly with soil and wait 10 to 21 days for it to germinate. Because of its fragility, the tree should be kept indoors for about two years before it is ready to be transplanted outside.
Be very careful when planting this tree because exposure to low temperatures for long amounts of time would be fatal.19 Keep these requirements in check and you’ll be the happy grower or owner of a rambutan tree.
How to Eat Rambutan Properly
Rambutan fruits are usually eaten raw, sometimes freshly picked from the tree. Simply remove the skin by lightly pinching the fruit until the peel breaks in the middle. Discard the peel and eat around the seed in the middle. You can also use a knife to separate the flesh from the seed.20
Rambutan Nutrition Facts
This fruit offers a wide variety of nutrients that could help your body maintain or improve its performance. The table below shows the nutritional value of rambutan:22
Rambutan Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 100 grams, raw
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Rambutan Healthy Recipes:
Summer Rambutan Curry
Rambutan can also be added to recipes to give them a hint of tropical sweetness. It’s even incorporated into traditional desserts like gelatos and pudding. In fact, rambutan recipes have become more complex throughout the years, as the fruit became more known throughout the world. Here is a recipe from Jake Cohen, which incorporates rambutan into curry, an age-old dish many people love:21
|1 tsp. ground turmeric
||1 2-inch piece galangal root, peeled and thinly sliced
||2 1⁄2 cups coconut milk
||Cilantro leaves, to garnish
|4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
||2 cups homemade chicken broth
||Lime wedges, for serving
|4 kaffir lime leaves, torn
||2 tbsp. coconut oil
||1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced on a bias
||3 red Thai chiles, stemmed
|1⁄2 small pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes
||1 tbsp. fish sauce
||1 stalk lemongrass, smashed, fibrous outer layers removed, and inner core thinly sliced
||1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
|2 tsp. honey
- Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic, lime leaves, chiles, lemongrass, and galangal with the turmeric until a coarse curry paste is formed.
- With a small paring knife, halve the rambutans and peel away their outer shell. Separate the soft flesh from the seed, avoiding the papery skin that surrounds it, and place the flesh in a bowl.
- In a 6-quart saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil over medium-high. Add the pineapple, and cook, stirring, until slightly caramelized, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pineapple to a plate. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan, and then add the onions. Cook, stirring, until golden brown, for 4 minutes. Add the curry paste, and keep stirring until fragrant, about 2 minutes more.
- Pour in the coconut milk and broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook, stirring, until reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Stir in the chicken, and continue to simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Add the reserved pineapple and rambutan, and cook until the fruit is warmed through, about 2 minutes.
- Remove the curry from the heat, and stir in the fish sauce and honey. Garnish with cilantro, and serve immediately with the lime wedges and brown rice.
Although not everyone may be familiar with rambutan, it is loved by many for its sweet flavor. But while it may seem like a good alternative to processed sugary treats, remember that excessive consumption of rambutan may also have adverse effects on your body. This fruit contains fructose, which can promote insulin resistance and cause a wide array of negative health effects. Make sure to eat rambutan in moderation, so you will receive the health benefits it offers without putting your health on the line.