The rambutan (/ræmˈbuːtən/; taxonomic name: Nephelium lappaceum) is a medium-sized tropical tree in the family Sapindaceae. The name also refers to the fruit produced by this tree. The rambutan is native to Malay-Indonesian region, and other regions of tropical Southeast Asia. It is closely related to several other edible tropical fruits including the lychee, longan, and mamoncillo.
Rambutan is native to tropical Southeast Asia and commonly grown throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. It has spread from there to various parts of Asia, Africa, Oceania and Central America. The widest variety of cultivars, wild and cultivated, are found in Malaysia.
Around the 13th to 15th centuries, Arab traders that played a major role in Indian Ocean trade introduced rambutan into Zanzibar and Pemba of East Africa. There are limited rambutan plantings in some parts of India. In the 19th century, the Dutch introduced rambutan from their colony in Southeast Asia and Suriname in South America. Subsequently the plant spread to tropical Americas, planted in the coastal lowlands of Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Cuba. In 1912, rambutan was introduced to the Philippines from Indonesia.
Further introductions were made in 1920 (from Indonesia) and 1930 (from Malaya), but until the 1950s its distribution was limited. There was an attempt to introduce rambutan to the United States, with seeds imported from Java in 1906, but the species proved to be unsuccessful,except in Puerto Rico.
Rambutan is an important fruit tree of humid tropical Southeast Asia, traditionally cultivated especially in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.It is a popular garden fruit tree and propagated commercially in small orchards. It is one of the best-known fruits of Southeast Asia and is also widely cultivated elsewhere in the tropics including Africa, the Caribbean islands, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, India, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka; it is also produced in Ecuador where it is known as achotillo and on the island of Puerto Rico.
Thailand is the largest producer of rambutan, with 588,000 tonnes (55.5%), followed by Indonesia with 320,000 tonnes (30.2%) and Malaysia with 126,300 tonnes (11.9%) in 2005, the three countries collectively accounting for 97% of the world’s supply of rambutan. In Thailand, major cultivation center is in Surat Thani Province. In Indonesia, the production center of rambutan is located in the western parts of Indonesia, which includes Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan. In Java, the orchards and pekarangan (habitation yards) in the villages of Greater Jakarta and West Java, has been known as rambutan production centers since colonial era, with trading center in Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta. Rambutan production is increasing in Australia and, in 1997, was one of the top three tropical fruits produced in Hawaii.
In India, rambutan is imported from Thailand as well as grown in Pathanamthitta District of the southern state of Kerala.
Rambutans are not a climacteric fruit — that is, they ripen only on the tree and appear not to produce a ripening agent such as the plant hormone, ethylene, after being harvested.