We were on the way to the Panajachel market when we brought the motorcycle to a sudden halt. “Ooooh,” we said together as we gazed at the back of a pickup truck full of rambutan fruit. Yes, happiness is ours.
At this time of year you’ll find them in the markets around Lake Atitlan. The locals call them “lychee” or “licha, ” but they’re not lychee. They’re cousins of the better-known fruit, which is often sold canned and at Asian markets in North America. Rambutan are native to Southeast Asia, but are cultivated throughout Central America.
When I first found the fruit’s real name, my husband never remembered it. Instead, he started calling them “rama-lama-ling-longs.” The name stuck, and that’s what we’ve called them ever since. Sometimes they’re just “ling-longs,” as in “shall we have ling-longs in our fruit salad this morning?” Since everything we do has some musical back story, the real source of the name is…
Who put the bomp
In the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?
Who put the ram
In the rama lama ding dong?
Don’t know the song? Click here to be enlightened!
But I digress…
As the rainy season in Guatemala starts in May, the mango supply begins to diminish and rambutan starts coming in, peaking in July and August. You can find the fruit in the markets, but the best ones are in wheelbarrows and pickup trucks. The skins are hairy and bright red (you don’t want to buy them if they’re brownish.) The word rambutan comes from the Malay word for hair.
What Do I Do With Them?
The thick, hairy skin of the rambutan protects the sweet, juicy white fruit inside. Cut or peel the skin–it pops off easily. Eat around the seed in the middle.
Rambutan are often made into jellies. We eat them plain or as part of a tropical fruit salad.
Are Rambutan Nutritious?
Really, these little babies are delicious: they wouldn’t need much nutrition for me to love them. Yet rambutan are a great source of manganese, vitamin C, and (believe it or not) iron. Some sources say that the seeds can be dried and ground into a powder that, when mixed with water and consumed, can help regulate blood sugar. Don’t quote me on that one.
Nutrition aside, don’t miss these wonderful fruits if you have the chance to try them.