Rambutan and lychees are often confused as the same fruit. However, there are more differences than there are similarities between these two tropical fruits. Lychees are an exotic fruit that we often associate with the arrival of summer in Asia. The fruit is native to Southern China but is now grown in many parts of the world. It is often compared to its lesser known cousin, the Rambutan.
In this article, we will compare and contrast the two fruits in terms of their origin, appearance, taste, and nutritional content. Lastly, we’ll suggest some of the most creative ways we think you might enjoy both fruits.
Origin and Cultivation
Both lychee and rambutan are tropical fruits. Lychee was first cultivated in the southern provinces of Guangdong and Fuijian in China. One of the first records of the fruit dates back to the Tang Dynasty. Meanwhile, Rambutan comes from Southeast Asia, particularly, the Malay Peninsula.
Both fruits are members of the Sapindaceae – soapberries family, which explains why they are often referred to as cousins.
The cultivation of these fruits is also similar. They both require frost-free tropical climates. However, while lychees require summer heat, humidity, rainfall, and slightly acidic soils, Rambutan is best grown on hilly terrain with good drainage, deep soil, clay foam or sandy loam.
Production of Lychee is relatively easier, which is why it has spread to many subtropical regions including North America and some parts of Europe. On the other hand, outside of its roots in Southeast Asia, Rambutan is also currently grown in Central America.
At first glance, the two fruits look similar, but not quite the same in size. Rambutan is the size of a golf ball, whereas lychee is a little smaller.
Besides the size, it’s easy to tell them apart. Rambutan has a red outer skin but what’s most noticeable about it is the hair-like prongs all around the shell that’s coloured somewhere between neon green and orange. Meanwhile, while the outer skin of a lychee is also red, rough but thinner.
The two fruits start to look more similar though once opened. They both have a white flesh. When you open the flesh, you will find a big seed in each one of them in the middle.
Quite important to note about both fruits’ appearance: They both go from green to red as they ripen. In addition, they’re relatively difficult to open until they are ripe enough to be eaten.
Another difference between the two tropical fruits is the taste. Rambutan has a richer and creamier taste that is often described as sweet with a hint of sourness. On the other hand, the white translucent flesh of a lychee is not as sweet and creamy. It has a crisper bite and a floral taste. Learn more about what lychee tastes like here.
Despite what some may describe as a scary appearance, both Rambutan and Lychee are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
In fact, these two fruits have very similar nutritional composition in terms of calories, fiber, and sugar content, among others.
There are many health benefits that are associated with Rambutan. One is decreased risk of diabetes, owing to its lower sugar count compared to other sweets. A study in China found that higher consumption of this fruit results in lower risks of the disease. Other health benefits include bone health, reduced risks of kidney stones, and heart health.
On the other hand, the health benefits of lychee in humans have not been widely studied yet. Having said that, many nutrients are found in this fruit and one cannot go wrong with it. In Vietnam, locals believe the fruit helps to boost the immune system, lower cholesterol and improve digestion.
How to Eat Rambutan and Lychee
Because of the similar texture and taste of rambutan and lychee, they can be eaten similarly as well.
You may eat them fresh. Once ripe, the outer skin of both fruits is tender enough to be opened easily.
Another way to enjoy either fruit is by making it into a smoothie, either by itself, or with other fruits. Both fruits have a very subtle, flexible taste that makes it quite easy to mix them with other tropical fruits such as pear, banana, mango, or whatever other fruit you might find in your local market.
Lychees and Rambutans are tropical fruits that you don’t want to miss out on. They are delicious and healthy, and there are tons of ways to enjoy them.