Rambutan (pronounced Ram-Beau-T'n), is one of the most exotic looking fruits and relative to the lychee. Native to Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the western lowlands of Malaysia. "Rambut", the word in Malay means "hairy", and "utan" makes any word in Malaysian into a noun. Some people call rambutan by the nickname "hairy lychee".
Today, Rambutan is a popular fruit not just amongst the Asians. It is now cultivated in Hawaii, Caribbean islands, Australia, and Central America. Early Arab traders even introduced rambutan to Africa where it is also cultivated. Rambutan fruit is a good source of fiber, Vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein, and niacin. Rambutan is harder to grow than lychee, but worth the time and you can grow rambutan as an ornamental tree in your garden.
Select a sunny, virtually windless area with rich organic content, and deep, sandy, well drained soil. Rambutan trees flourish in warm humid climates, and growing seasons vary in each of the tropical regions where it is planted.
Decide which kind of rambutan you wish to grow. There are two types of rambutan, the standard red/yellow variety and a genetically developed green kind that produces an even more delicate flavor with thinner skin.
Grow from seed: Rambutan seed is short-lived so it should be sown directly after it is extracted and cleaned. Soak seeds in non-toxic food grade fungal pectinase enzyme (can be bought at most garden centers) at least 12 hours or overnight in a container or bucket. The solution help remove the flesh that clings tightly to the seeds, which inhibits germination. Seeds then should be washed in plain water before planting.
Germination takes seven to 21 days depending on the temperature. The warmer the soil and the climate, the faster it germinates since this is a tropical fruit tree. Keep soil moist at all times before sprout appears, water every two to three days when seedling develop.
From starter plant: Root stock is propagated by bud grafting onto seedling; you can find young tree at garden centers.
Leave 32 to 42 feet spacing between each tree.
Feed tree with high potassium fertilizer 10-2-33 for the first four years in three-month intervals. Regularly remove water suckers and dead branches. Fruited twigs/branches should be pruned back to stimulate new growth.