Nephelium lappaceum - Rambutan, Mamon Chino

Native to Malaysia and Indonesia, the Rambutan is one of the most popular and common fruits in Southeast Asia where it is grown both on a domestic level, as a patio tree, and at a commercial level. It has been introduced to some areas of Africa and Central America, like Costa Rica and Panama, to a lesser extent.  The Rambutan is a medium size tree reaching 15 -25 meters in height, with a straight trunk and a dense canopy. 

The fruit is the shape of an egg encapsulated in a red, yellow, or sometimes orange casing covered in soft spiny hairs. The sweet, juicy, aromatic fruit is translucent and surrounds a large seed. There exist freestone cultivars. Fruit can range in acidity, yellow varieties tending to be more acidic than red. 

Reportedly the seed is edible. I forget where I first heard this, but I have eaten the seeds raw, which are not disagreeable in flavor and gave me the sense that they were especially nutritious. Any further info regarding Rambutan seed edibility would be greatly appreciated. 

The Rambutan fruit, like the Lychee, is rich in sugar (11%) and vitamin C.

There are more than 100 varieties of Rambutan in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Culitvars are distinguished by whether they are best consumed fresh (Ayer Mas, Chooi, Ang, Kelip, Rongrien, Tau po Cheng), or used in preserves (Chompu, Kepala Besar).

The Rambutan is a tree from the humid tropics. It isn't found cultivated higher than 600 meters. It has not been successfully cultivated in Florida and other subtropical areas and does not tolerate long periods of drought. The tree is not especially selective in soil type although it does best in heavy clay soils with a heavy organic mulch layer. 

Orange Rambutan.

Orange Rambutan.

Yellow Rambutan.

Yellow Rambutan.

Red Rambutan. 

Red Rambutan. 

Chondrilla juncea - ampelosyrida (αμπελοσυρίδα) or glykosyrida (γλυκοσυρίδα)


The plant is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa, but it is known throughout most temperate regions of the world as an introduced species which is usually considered a noxious weed.


In the Greek island of Crete the leaves and the tender shoots of a local variety called ampelosyrida (αμπελοσυρίδα) or glykosyrida (γλυκοσυρίδα) are eaten raw or boiled in salads by the locals. The plant is also traditionally consumed by ethnic Albanians (Arbëreshë) in the Vulture area (southern Italy). Chondrilla juncea may have an anti-oxidant activity and some potential for medicinal use. XO-inhibiting activity shown by extracts of the aerial parts of the plant with potential benefits for hyperuricaemia and gout.


In the wild the plant reproduces by seed but also by cloning itself at the root; tilling of soil and chopping up plants actually help this species disperse by sectioning and distributing root parts.

Edible / Condiment leaf species of Southeast Asia.

The following is a list of species whose leaves are used as condiments in Southeast Asia. The list is not, by any means, complete, but includes some of the lesser known, more obscure species.

Acacia farnesianaCassie flower, Leguminaceae

Achronychia laurifoliaKetiak, Rutaceae

Aegle marmelosBael fruit, Rutaceae

Allium odorumChinese chives, Liliaceae

Ancistrocladus extensus, Ox-tongue, Dipterocarpaceae

Antidesma ghaesembillaSekinchak, Euphorbiaceae

Begonia tuberosaTuberous begonia, Begoniaceae

Claoxylon polotRock blumea, Euphorbiaceae

Coleus tuberosus, African potato, Labiatae

Crypteronia paniculata, Sempoh, Lythraceae

Curcuma domestica, Turmeric, Zingiberaceae

Cymbopogon citratusLemon Grass, Graminae

Cyrtandra decurrens, Graminae

C. pendulaRock sorrel, Graminae

Dendrobium salaccenseCooking orchid, Orchidaceae

Derris heptaphyllaSeven finger, Leguminaceae

Elethariopsis sumatranaFrangrant gingerwort, Zingiberaceae

Eugenia polyanthaWhite kelat, Myrtaceae

Evodia roxburghianaSour-relish wood, Rutaceae

Gymura procumbens, Akar, Compositae

Homalomena graffithiiItch grass, Araceae

HornstedtiaTepus, Zingiberaceae

Horsfieldia sylvestrisPendarahan, Myristicaceae

Kaempferia galangaChekur (Galangal), Zingiberaceae

Kaempferia rotundaKenchur, Zingiberaceae

Leucas lavandulifoiaKetumbak, Labiatae

L. zeylanicaKetumbak, Labaiatae

Limnophila aromaticaSwamp leaf, Scrophulariaceae

L. villosa

L. conferta

L. pulcherrima

L. rugosa

Lycium chineseKichi, Matrimony vine, Solanaceae

Lycopersicum esculentumTomato, Solanaceae

Medinilla crispataMedinilla, Melastomataceae

M. hasseltii

M. radicans

Mentha longifoliaLongleaf mint, Labiatae

Murraya koenigiiCurry-leaf tree, Rutaceae

Nauclea esculentaPincushion, Rubiaceae

Ocimum canumHoary basil, Labiatae

Oenanthe javanicaShelum, Umbelliferae

Ottelia alismoides, Pojnd lettuce, Hydrocharitaceae

Oxalis corniculataSorrel, Oxalidaceae

Pilea melastomoidesSweet nettle, Urticaceae

Piper lolotPepper leaf, Piperaceae

P. caducibracteum

P. umbellatum

Pistacia lentiscusPistachio resin tree, Anacardiaceae

Pluchea indicaIndian sage, Comppositae

Polygonum hydropiperWater polygonum, Polygonaceae

Staurogyne elongataCross flower, Acanthaceae

Trachyspermum involucratumWild celery, Umbelliferae

Syzygium jambos - Rose Apple


Originally from Southeast Asia (East India and Malaya) the Rose Apple has been introduced into tropical regions around the world. It is very common in the Caribbean, brought by English colonizers. Apparently it is being grown in the San Francisco area of N. California. The tree grows with a broad, dense canopy, usually relatively small (5 m), but can reach heights of 20 m. The leaves are long and thin.

The name Rose Apple comes from the scent of the flowers and the taste of the fruit, both of which strongly resemble roses, or rose water. The fruit is round, 3 -5 centimeters in diameter and yellow in color, typically eaten raw, but also used in jellies due to the high pectin content. The fruit contains up to 11% sugar and is considered to be a good source of calcium, iron (2 mg/100 g) and niacin (1.1 mg/100 g).

This species makes a great windbreak due to its low, dense growth habit.


The tree is often wider then it is tall, makes a spectacular ornamental tree, but needs ample space and sun. Although it is somewhat cold hardy, it should be protected from frosts.