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June 30, 2024

Meet the “Mamón Chino” Fruit of Costa Rica

Mamón Chino Fruit of Costa Rica

Say hello to our little friend.

This egg-sized, oval fruit features a bright red skin color at harvest time. And it’s spiky exterior means you’ll easily spot it at the farmers’ markets in town.

In our part of the jungle we most often hear it referred to as “Mamón Chino.” If you put that into Google’s Spanish to English translator, it will spit out “Chinese Sucker.”  That’s because it’s a fruit that originated in Southeast Asia. Specifically in the Malaysian−Indonesian region.

Mamón Chino, Mamones chinos, mamones, rambutan, chom-chom, Nephelium lappaceum — phew, this sucker has a lot of aliases!

The fruit is popular around the world, and in each area it goes by a different name.  

The name rambutan is derived from the Malay word rambut, meaning “hair.” Similarly, in Vietnam, they are called “chôm chôm” (messy hair). In Ecuador, it is known as “achotillo.”


It also has a large family, which includes the lychee, longan, pulasan and quenepa.

This single-seeded sweet fruit is full of healthy features just under its spiky, rough exterior. After washing, just cut it open at the center. If you’re hanging out at the beach (without cutlery we assume) you can always press a thumbnail into the side until you can peel the skin away. The peel and pit should be discarded and never eaten. 

Here’s a very in depth guide to eating a mamón chino: 

Once you remove the peel, which is similar in thickness to an orange, you’ll discover a fleshy, white, creamy fruit inside. The single seed in the center of the fruit is a brown colored pit you’ll want to discard as well.

If you’ve had lychee before, the taste of Mamón Chino is very similar. It’s described as sweet but acidic, or tart. The pulp can be eaten fresh or used in recipes for salad, smoothies, jam, ice cream and more. Aside from our guests, kinkajous, monkeys and macaws have all enjoyed this seasonal treat.

The fruit is high in fiber, with levels similar to apples and oranges. A study found that you can get just under 20% of the daily recommended copper intake, and 10% of manganese. Additionally, there is about 21 to 49 mg of Vitamin C per 100 grams.

This fun fruit enjoyed a bump in popularity online during the pandemic. It could be because a lot of budding comedians on TikTok and X — the platform formerly known as Twitter — noted its resemblance to the dreaded spikey coronavirus. But rest assured, there’s nothing to fear when it comes to the soft spikes of the Mamón Chino. 

In fact, a quick look on WebMD says that early studies show that extracts from the fruit may help fight infections and stop viruses from replicating. Couple that with its high vitamin C content and you’ve got yourself a yummy new option for boosting the immune system.

The tree needs to grow for about five to seven years before it can bear fruit. Its fruit is seasonal, ripening in Costa Rica around July and August.

Grab a bag from the farmers’ markets or grocery stores in Dominical or Uvita. Storing Mamón Chino in the refrigerator, you can expect the fruit to last up to two weeks.

Now go get a taste!

Feature photo CC V1.2

Category: Blog

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