|The rambutan (as seen in the Ooty veggie market)|
In continuance to the homage made to the Mangosteen a few weeks ago, another exotic fruit to catch my fancy was the Rambutan. It is also called Ramboostan in the local markets. It is reddish (when ripe) in colour and looks very much like a lychee. The only major difference is that the outer skin is very hairy; in Malay ‘rambut’ means hair. On the inside it is a fleshy pearl coloured pod with a single seed; and is sweet-sour to the taste. There is a website: www.rambutan.com which offers information on the genus (Nephelium Lappaceum), and how to go about the proper process of eating it!
The Rambutan trees are medium sized evergreens and are a non-climacteric variety, i.e. they ripen only when on the tree. In fact the fruits taste better and survive longer when sold complete with the fruits still on the cut branches. Indigenous to the Malay Archipelago, Indonesia and the Philippines it also grows in Sri Lanka, Burma, India and Thailand. The Rambutan does not seem to have done as well as the Mangosteen in terms of captivating the taste buds of Queen Victoria; and the explorers and horticulturists of her time. Without much support from the west its trade has been very limited, though the fruit has reached Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Australia for cultivation purposes. It seems that traders in the south-east Asian region have given it a major economic push and it succeeds well in these parts.
In India the Rambutan is mostly grown in the Travancore region in southern Kerala. It was brought their by people who had earlier migrated from there to Singapore and Malaysia but who still retained ties to the land. Places where active cultivation thrives are Maramon, Kozhencherry, Ayroor, Ranny, Konni and Mallappally. There is good demand for them in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and prices per kilo are in the Rs. 150-200 range. No wonder that Kerala is just the place for it because the trees grow best within 10 – 15 degrees of the equator at a height of around 1600 ft. MSL. This, of course, just like the Mangosteen, puts paid to my desire to grow them in an orchard within our project in the Nilgiris. I believe Rambutan jams and jellies are heavenly; but, I guess, much like the popular movie title, Heaven Can Wait!