Rambutan trees can grow to a height of 50 to 80 feet. Its straight trunk can reach up to 24 inches in diameter with dense canopy. The fruit, also called rambutan, is oval in shape and varies in color from pinkish-red or dark purple to orange-yellow, though it is most recognized by its vibrant pink color. The fruit is native to Malaysia and covered in spiny hairs, hence its name from the Malay word for hair, rambut.
Rambutan peels much like a hard-boiled egg—break the outer shell and peel back the spiny outer covering to reveal the aril (the fruit itself ) inside. The aril contains a small, bitter tasting seed that is typically discarded and not eaten with the fruit.
References: Australia Dept. of Primary Industry, Fisheries & Mines, Purdue University.
TYPES, VARIETIES & CUTS
There appear to be two main types of rambutan – red and yellow. Red varieties are medium in size and ripen in September or October; the aril, or seed, is white, dry, and sweet. The yellow varieties are somewhat smaller in size and ripen in October; arils are white, juicy, and sweet.
Some red varieties include Queen Zaida, Princess Caroline, Roxas, Laurel, Sr. and Ponderosa Ferreras. Yellow varieties include Quezon, Zamora, Quirino, Santo Tomas, and Victoria. Size of the fruit, sweet/tartness, and flesh color differ by variety.
References: Australia Dept. of Primary Industry, Fisheries and Mines; Produce Marketing Association; Purdue University.
PESTS & DISEASE
Stem-end rot, indicated by slight shriveling at the stem, is caused by bacteria and fungi and occurs in the grove during harvest. Unfortunately, it does not become apparent until after fruit is shipped. Since rambutan does not ripen once off the tree, it does little damage but is still a concern during handling. Anthracnose attacks leaves, branches, and flowers. Round, grey areas occur on leaves and outbreaks typically occur after warm, wet weather.
Birds and flying foxes (fruit-eating bats) are the biggest dangers to a rambutan crop. They feed on crops, severely decreasing yields. Flying foxes are a problem in Australia, Indonesia, and mainland Asia where they roost in camps or communal sites. Like other species of bats, they hang upside down in trees, but this particular species eats only fruit.
Loopers are green with white stripes and eat irregular holes in leaves. Female red-banded thrips are dark brown or black about 1.20 millimeters in length with black wings. Males are similar but smaller. Damage to leaves is noticeable by a silver-like appearance with dark colored spots.
References: Australia Dept. of Primary Industry, Fisheries & Mines, Purdue University; UC Davis Postharvest Technology website.