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Rambutans, Not Sweet Gum Balls

rambutan fruits isolated on white background

As a child growing up in southern central United States, I remember riding my bike and walking along the sidewalk just to slip on a sweet gum ball that had fallen from the sweet gum tree. Those spiky balls were not as bad when they were green but once they had turned brown; OH MY they could make a kid cry if they were hit by one.

This week I was looking at a list of produce coming into season and saw rambutans.
“What is that, besides just fun to say?”
I looked it up and my first reaction was bad memories of a rolled ankle but thank goodness these are not the same. Rambutans can look spiky but hairy is a better way to describe them. Bryan Nelson from Mother Nature Network gives a better description.

“Native to the Malay Archipelago, the name of this fruit is derived from the Malay word meaning “hairy,” and you can see why. But once the hairy exterior of the rambutan is peeled away, the tender, fleshy, delicious fruit is revealed. Its’ taste is described as sweet and sour, much like a grape. Though it has its’ origin in Southeast Asia, rambutan has been imported around the world, and now is commonly cultivated as close to home as Mexico and Hawaii.”

When I lived in Honduras, I remembered seeing these on the fruit stand and had the pleasure of trying them a few times. It is a very fun experience and the juice is delicious! Superfoodly has some step by step suggestions, with pictures, on how to get past the hairy exterior to the delightful fruit inside.

“1. Choose a ripe Rambutan.
When ripe, the most common variety of rambutan will look bright red with green spines or hairs. If those have turned partially black then the fruit is passed its prime, yet still edible. With some varieties, the skin turns orange or yellow when ripe instead of red. All are green prior to ripening, so you never want to eat a green one.

2. Cut a slit around its circumference.
Place the fruit on a cutting board and cut deep enough to go through the tough rind. You can’t cut the fruit in half because in the center is a large seed. Rather than trace the knife around the circumference, it’s often easier to hold the knife stationary and slowly rotate the fruit like you would a dial, using your thumb and index finger. Do this until the cut goes all the way around.

3. Squeeze the rind off one hemisphere.
After cutting the circumference, you can easily squeeze off one-half of the rind using your fingers.

4. Peel rind off remaining hemisphere.
Depending on its ripeness, the last half can also be squeezed off. Though if you want to minimize juice loss, peeling the rind will put less pressure on the fruit.

5. Remove seed before eating.
Underneath the bright white pulp is a large seed which is not edible. It contains saponins and tannins which are poisonous. With the “freestone” type of rambutans, you can easily slide the seed out using just your fingers. With the ‘clingstone’ type, you have to manually peel or cut the seed fragments off the flesh. The latter is messy and will leave behind a paper-like substance stuck to the fruit, which requires further removal. To make this last step simpler, you can also leave the seed inside and eat the juicy flesh as you would an apple, albeit a small one. That’s how they’re often consumed in Indonesia and elsewhere.”

Interestingly, I found a recipe for “Rambutan Fruit Juice Recipe for Pain Relief” on The Spruce and I’m sure there are other fun recipes to make too.

Whether you eat them raw or with something else, at least you won’t have to worry about splinters or rolled ankles.

Eat Live & GoFresh!

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