Rambutan

General Description/History

  • Oval shape, the size of a hen’s egg
  • Leathery skin covered in tubercles which carry a soft spine of hair up to 1.5cm long
  • The skin is red/scarlet or yellow, depending on the variety
  • Flesh is translucent white, very juicy and succulent
  • Flavour is sweet/subacid
  • Contains one seed
  • Is closely related to the lychee

The tree is an evergreen and may reach 25m high and 6m wide. Seedling trees tend to have an upright growth habit and bear fruit after 6-8 years, while grafted or air-layered trees tend to be more spreading and often produce their first fruit in 2-4 years.

The leaves are compound with 5-7 pairs of leaflets. Each leaflet is tapered at each end and may reach 20cm long by 8cm wide. The flowers are greenish-white and rather small.

Select good sized fruit with bright colour be it red, pink or yellow depending upon variety. The spines should be firm and not discoloured or brittle. Avoid fruit that appears shrivelled or is showing signs of bruising.

Ideal as a fresh snack and can be used to accompany any cheese or meat platter. Great for use in both sweet and savoury salads. The flesh and seed can be frozen for use beyond the fresh season. An interesting addition to either sweet or savoury kebab sticks. It can be cooked in a variety of Chinese dishes. Served chilled with ice-cream it is a refreshing way to end a meal.

Rambutans are best suited to a tropical climate where winter temperatures rarely fall below 10°C or peak above 40°C. The rambutan is intolerant of any frost. Even a light frost will damage foliage and bark and may kill young trees. Full sun from a very early age promotes vigorous growth.

Supplementary irrigation is required for Queensland crops as they must be grown in areas of high rainfall. Deep, rich, well drained sandy loams with a high organic matter content are generally preferred.

There is usually no shortage of willing, pollinator insects. The only limiting factor for pollination appears to be a shortage of sufficient male flowers as a bearing tree has approximately 98% female flowers and only 2% male flowers. To overcome this, normally a small number of purely male trees are planted throughout the orchard.

The name Rambutan comes from the Malaysian word ‘Rambut’ meaning hair. Rambutan originated in Malaysia and is now widely cultivated throughout the lowland tropics of South East Asia and Australia, mainly within 15° of the equator.

Nutritional Value

Rambutans are a good source of vitamin C and dietary fibre. 190kJ/100g.

Storage/Handling

7-10°C and 90 – 98% relative humidity.

At room temperature the attractive colouring of the rambutan lasts only 2 or 3 days. Cool storage at 5-10°C combined with sealing in clear plastic to exclude as much air as possible increases shelf life for up to 14 days.

Consumer Storage: Keep rambutans in an airtight plastic bag or container in the refrigerator for short periods. Ideally they should be eaten as soon as possible.

Season: Summer,Autumn,Spring

Botanical Name: Nephelium lappaceum (Sapindaceae)

Alternative Names: 

Availablity: January,February,March,April,May,November,December

Growing Areas: 

QLD – Tropical North
NT – Batchelor, Darwin