It is fruit season now, which means all my discretionary income is vanishing at the roadside market. There are plenty of local fruits available year round – pineapples, papayas, bananas – but the best fruits are highly seasonal, available only for two months or so at the beginning and middle of the year.

One of my favorites is rambutan, with their bright red and yellow hairy skins. Rip or twist them open and inside is a thick sweet juicy flesh around a seed the size of an almond. I first encountered them as rum-tums in Sri Lanka, where they constituted a culinary high point during my few months there. Here in Kuching, they sell them on the twig for between RM 1.50 a bundle, more at the ends of the season, less in the middle.

The rambutan tree is easy to grow and care for, and so is often planted in people’s backyards. It is a medium sized tree if left untended. In an orchard I visited in Penang, though, the trees were all kept pruned to about fifteen feet so all the fruit could be harvested by step ladder. The shape and size of the trees were not unlike what you’d find in an apple orchard, except the trees were spaced much further apart.

I’ve got a rambutan tree that I planted about a year and a half ago. It’s a named variety: “Anak Sekolah”, or School Kid. I continue to be amazed by how fast things can grow around here: It’s about eight feet tall already. According to the nurseryman I bought it from, grafted stock will start bearing two years after planting. If so, I ought to get a little fruit in the middle of this year. I can’t wait.

Published by bingregory

Official organ of an American Muslim in Malaysian Borneo, featuring plants, pantuns and pictures from the Malay archipelago. Oversharing since 2002.

Join the Conversation


  1. Salam alaykum wa rahmtallah

    When I was in Malaysia and first encountered the rambutan fruit, I was in a total state of disarry. I had no idea where to start! ^_^

    Was I suppose to the eat the outside – that didn’t seem right. So where was the fruit. Thats when my malay friend starting laughing and taking the rambutan said..Senang laa..:-)

    I have preferred the method of biting the center with my two front teeth and then ‘peeling’ off the other half. Masyaallah.

    Nice to see a blog post!! Keep ’em coming.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply