Indigenous to the Malay Archipelago, this remarkable looking fruit has a rind that's covered in dark, soft, flexible "bristles." The rambutan is small (1 to 2 inches in diameter) and, depending on the variety, the rind color can be crimson, orange, yellow or green. Inside, a single seed is surrounded by a translucent, grapelike flesh that has a sweet, delicate flavor, which is much like but slightly more acidic than that of the litchi (to which it's related). Rambutans are available from about August to May, though typically only in specialty produce markets and some Asian markets. The shells should be intact and the bristles flexible and not dry. Refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to a week. The thin rind is easy to peel off; after which the whole rambutan can be popped into the mouth, the flesh eaten and the seed discarded. Or, the seed can be removed and the flesh used in salads, jellies or ice cream.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.