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What Is Rambutan?

Learn about a fruit that has a name inspired by the soft hairs covering its rind

The rambutan, a close relative of the lychee, is a small red fruit with hairy spines covering the rind. The fruit, which is two to three inches long and usually oval-shaped, can be opened either by cutting into it or biting it, as the spines aren’t harmful. Its hair-like spines inspired its name, as “rambut” means “hair” in Malay. The rambutan is common in Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Borneo, and other countries in the region. Its white, fleshy interior, which resembles a grape in size and texture, has a mostly sweet flavor, but the solitary brown seed inside isn’t edible. The fruit usually grows in clusters of 10 to 20; it’s usually eaten raw but can also be stewed as a dessert. The rambutan tree, which usually grows between 50 and 80 feet tall, bears fruit twice annually that is a source of calcium, phosphorus, and protein.