Get to know the weird and wonderful Rambutan

It may look like a strange sea creature or something off the set of Star Trek, but Rambutans are really quite delicious! Now in season and available at supermarkets, these ping-pong ball-size fruits are covered with tiny tentacles around a leathery pink skin. Inside the shell you will find a translucent white lychee-like fruit with a succulent, sweet tropical taste. Like lychees, Rambutans have a single pit inside the flesh. The flavor might be described as lychee-grape-strawberry (without the perfumy muskiness of lychee).

Rambutans are best enjoyed fresh out of their unique shells, but can also be stewed as a dessert, made into preserves or canned in syrup. To open, gently score the outer skin with a sharp paring knife, being careful not to cut through the flesh or inner seed. Then lift off the top half of the skin, leaving the rest as a decorative holder. Nibble and enjoy the juicy, pearly flesh that surrounds the inner seed. (Note: the seed is not edible.)

Here’s a simple and delicious way to enjoy fresh Rambutans, from www.friedas.com:

Rambutan Mandarin
12-15 Fresh Rambutans, peeled and seeded
11-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained
3 Tbsp orange juice
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
Fresh mint for garnish (optional)

In a bowl combine the Rambutan, oranges, orange juice, sugar, lemon juice, and minced ginger. Stir gently to mix well. Cover and chill till serving time. Spoon over fresh chopped lettuce, or on top of vanilla ice cream. Garnish with mint leaves. Makes 4 servings.