In Southeast Asia, there is a tropical fruit resembling a sea urchin that grows on the evergreen rambutan tree. It is known by the Thai as ngor and aptly named rambutan for its “hairs”.
The rambutan tree yields fruit twice a year in midsummer and midwinter. Thailand is the largest producer of rambutan, with its production at slightly over half of the world’s supply.
Each tree could be a female (female flowers), male (staminate flowers and no fruit) or hermaphrodite (female and male flowers). It is the aromatic fruit blossom, that attracts such pollinators as ants, bees and flies.
What serves as a pleasant aroma to the human senses also draws these insects like moths to a flame, helping to produce the spiny tropical fruit.
Rambutan is most commonly red with a leathery skin, but can sometimes be orange or yellow. Upon peeling the skin, the fruit of the rambutan is found to be a pinkish white with a flavor and texture similar to grapes.
Because it is closely related to the tropical lychee fruit, it can be used as its substitute as well as in many cocktail recipes due to its high sugar content.
Most commonly, the delicate rambutan fruit are eaten in Thailand as a fresh snack, due to its tendency to spoil within a few days. Although it is a nice addition to a simple fruit salad, the raw, unadulterated fruit straight from the tree is when its most desirable.
To eat a rambutan, just pull back the rather soft, pliable spines on the rind and peel it like a citrus fruit.
Health Benefits of Rambutan
Although the health benefits are not as numerous as some of the other tropical fruit from Thailand, it should be noted that it is a great source of vitamin B3. This makes rambutan an excellent fruit to eat for heart health and the maintenance of good cholesterol levels.
Rambutan’s vitamin B3 content is also useful to the beauty industry. It can be used to help in many anti-aging applications from maintaining youthful skin elasticity to the staving off of gray hair.
There is even research to support that consuming rambutan will help with reproductive health for families planning for pregnancy because of its high vitamin B3 content.
High levels of Vitamin C are also found in Rambutan which help to support the immune system, help supply cancer fighting antioxidants, fight hypertension, and help with eye health.
Let’s not forget the importance of digestive health and that rambutan can aid with better bowel movements, reducing the risk of colon cancer and reducing diarrhea and constipation.
With its vitamin E content, it also helps with premature aging and acne.
Locating rambutan if you are on the United States mainland is a bit of a challenge, since it is more plentiful in the tropical zones. More often than not, you may have to venture out to a specialty store to find it.
Or maybe it’s time for a trip to Thailand.