“Rambutan is truly an exotic gourmet fruit with an appearance that will impress food lovers around the world,” Marc Holbik, director of grower relations for Ecoripe Tropicals in Medley, FL, told The Produce News. “The translucent flesh of this tree fruit has a crisp, agreeable, sweet grape-like flavor with just a hint of tartness. The reddish exterior shell is covered with soft, flexible, hair-like bristles that give Rambutan one of the more exotic appearances for a fruit.”
Rambutan originated in Southeast Asia. Today, Ecoripe Tropicals is producing the fruit in its GlobalGap-certified orchards located in various and separated microclimates in Guatemala.
“Our production regions enable us to offer an extended season of rambutan that runs from May to October,” said Holbik. “We harvest and fly the fruit into the U.S. six days a week directly to our food-safety-certified coolers. We can finally provide fresh-quality Rambutan on a consistent basis for the North American market.”
In addition to rambutan, Ecoripe Tropicals offers an extensive range of tropical fruits and vegetables that are in high demand by Asian and Latin consumers, as well as people who simply enjoy experiencing new products, commonly called “foodies” or “gourmets.” The company handles a wide assortment of Asian products, and its tropical fruit line includes coconuts, papayas, pineapples, mangos and limes. It also handles passion fruit and starfruit. Its specialty vegetable line is comprised of peppers, peas, breadnut, green papaya, tindora, breadfruit, long beans, sweet potato leaf, mong toi, chive flower and other unique items. It also handles root vegetables such as white and yellow turmeric, yucca, malanga eddoes and chayote.
“Rambutan is a great addition to our line of specialty fresh produce,” said Holbik. “Our vegetable line also includes items such as long eggplants, baby eggplants, chive flowers and bittermelons. Our fruit line also includes longans, Thai guavas, breadfruits and sapodillas.”
While having a bowl of fresh rambutans to peel by hand and snack on is heaven for many, Rambutan is also a great central or supporting ingredient for impressive dishes. Holbik said dishes like savory stuffed rambutans, Chinese fruit salad and rambutan curry are only a few of the many possibilities, adding, “Top any of these types of dishes with a rambutan martini. Incorporating the shell as decoration also brings lots of interest to dishes.”
Ecoripe Tropicals is firmly committed to the success of its farming partner enterprises by working hand-in-hand to develop market-driven projects. Holbik said it strives to provide the best in communication and service to the people and companies with which it works.
Earlier this year the company unveiled a new website, ecoripe.com, which showcases its colorful, exotic and luscious fruits.
“From locally grown Florida produce, papayas from Belize and Brazil, mangos from Peru, rambutan from Guatemala and vegetables from Honduras, our farming partners span the Western Hemisphere,” said Holbik. “The assurance of freshness, taste, food safety and consistent quality is a challenging task that is taken on with passion by our quality growers.”
On the retail level, Holbik said that Ecoripe Tropicals has had many successes and challenges with rambutan.
“For stores geared toward Asian-American consumers, our main challenge is supplying enough,” he said.
“On the other hand, we are finding success in the challenges of introducing the exotic rambutan fruit to other cultures by incorporating in-store demos that create a lot of excitement in the produce section while sharing with new customers the agreeable taste that lies under the sometimes intimidating hairy-looking shell.”