Rambuttans in abundance
The fleshy 'hairy balls' that are in abundance all over Colombo and
which are relish grown with love and toil.
Will you believe that before these trees are harvested vows are kept
for Paththini Deviyo and these vows are fulfilled once the harvest
season is over. The fleshy Rambuttans adorning the streets of Colombo
are harvested with tender loving care.
Carrying the harvest of
Rambuttan to be sold
When the word `Rambuttan' is mentioned automatically Malwana comes to
mind. Malwana is famous for those 'fleshy hairy balls' known as
Sri Lanka is a tropical country and varieties of sweet fruits are
abundant elsewhere in the country, especially during the period
commencing from June to December. Like many other traditional Sri Lankan
fruits such as mangoes, pineapple, bananas and oranges Rambuttan trees
do not grow everywhere in the country.
Rambuttans are only grown in the Western, Sabaragamuwa and Southern
A famous Rambuttan grower from Malwana, Sumathipala Ranawaka says
that although there are English words for many varieties of fruits,
there has been no English word so far for Rambuttan.
Two varieties of red and yellow Rambuttan are cultivated in our
country. The best variety which has a sweet taste is the Malaysian
Rambuttan. The other variety which is a little sour is the `Val
Rambuttan'.Legend has it that Rambuttan is foreign to our soil.
It is said that the Portuguese brought the first Rambuttan seeds to
Sri Lanka from Malaysia and planted them on the banks of the Kelani
River near Malwana.
The Portuguese also had a fortress in Malwana and later found that
the soil in the Kelani Valley was ideal to plant Rambuttan trees.
According to history, kings, queens and their families during the
colonial era were in the habit of spending their leisure at Rambuttan
gardens in Malwana during the season. Although Rambuttan was first
planted in Malwana by the Portuguese, villagers took the seeds even to
other areas in the country.
However, Malwana is synonymous with Rambuttan.
Unlike the usually tall `Val Rambuttan' trees in villages, the
Malaysian trees are dwarf trees. The branches fall to the ground when
they are heavily laden with fruits. Even a small child could pluck the
Rambuttan harvest could be reaped during June to August and from
November to January every year. The best Rambuttan is harvested from
June to August.
The Sunday Observer last week visited Malwana and Bomiriya,the most
famous places for Rambuttan in the country.
Acres and acres of Rambuttan lands could still be seen in these
villages. According to cultivators, some Rambuttan land owners who have
over 60 acres earn about Rs. 25 lakhs during a season.
A longstanding Rambuttan cultivator, Wasantha Lanerolle of Kethe
Watta, Pahala Bomiriya had planted over 2500 Malaysian Rambuttan trees
in his 45-acre land at Pahala Bomiriya and earns about Rs. Two million
during the season between June and August.
"During some seasons this income comes down due to rains and
destruction caused by birds such as crows, parrots and bats" .
He said unlike other birds who come during day time, bats who come
after the dusk destroy thousands worth of ripe Rambuttan in one night
and workers have to keep a close vigil on them. An old boy of Ananda
College, Colombo, Wasantha said all his properties were given to him by
his late father Lewis Duke Lanerolle who owned about 80 acres of
He said according to the final wish of his father, he has allocated
eight acres of cultivable lands with a paddy and fruit cultivation for
birds and other wild animals.
He said this time he received the best Rambuttan harvest after twenty
Collecting the harvest
Wasantha also said the workers who look after his Rambuttan
plantation used crackers, flash lights and also loudspeakers to chase
away birds during the day and in the night.
He said birds are scared of red and white flags and flags are also
hung on trees to chase birds away.
Asked about the progress of the Rambuttan business, Wasantha said
unlike in previous years, this time a good Rambuttan harvest is reported
from everywhere in the Malwana area and the fruits are sold at cheap
He said businessmen were coming even from Jaffna, Trincomalee and
Batticaloa districts to purchase Rambuttan from his garden and now
Rambuttan growers sell their harvest to the Northern areas.
A Rambuttan cultivator, Lakshitha de Silva of Mapitigama,Malwana said
he has about twelve `Val Rambuttan 'trees in his garden and earn a
sufficient income every year.
He said unlike Malysian sweet Rambuttan, Val Rambuttan is sour and
foreigners like them very much.
He also said during some seasons when there is a good Rambuttan
harvest small trees are given on lease to businessmen in the area and
earn a good income.
A retired Government servant and a longstanding Rambuttan seller,
G.P. Smarasinghe of Yabaraluwa, Malwana said he has been in the
Rambuttan selling business for the past ten years and he earns a
sufficient daily income by selling them to people travelling to distant
places via the Malwana village.
Anura Priyantha of Malwana who look after an eight acre Rambuttan
land in the same area said his brother had got the land from a
businessman on lease for Rs. Eight lakhs.
"We can get a profit of Rs. six lakhs from Rambuttans,"
Premasiri of Batagoda village, Malvana said the soil in different
parts of Malwana is ideal to grow any variety of fruits that are grown
even in foreign countries.
A fruit seller, 34- year old, Nimal Premaratna of Kaduwela said
Rambuttan is also coming to the market from Attanagalla,
Polgahawela,Koslanda, Beragala and Labugama areas during the season
between June and August.
A Rambuttan seller Sujith Weerasinghe who is married and has two
children said he started the Duriyan and Rambuttan business at Alexandra
Place in Town Hall a few years ago, but due to various reasons, the
Police did not permit them to carry on. We then shifted our business
close to the Colombo University premises,".
He said regular customers are very familiar with the present place
which is located opposite the BRC grounds and requested Police and
Colombo MMC authorities to permit them to carry out the business
temporarily at other places in Colombo. "I earn around Rs, 10,000 a day
and large number of foreigners visit our stalls even from their
He said he visits Malwana, Ratnapura, Attanagalla, Koslanda,
Beragala, Wellawaya and Polgahawela to bring Rambuttan.
Sujith also requested Police or any other authority to allow them to
carry out their business once again at Thunmulla Junction and in
A 38 - year old Rambuttan seller at Bambalapitiya Market R.S.
Wijepala said owners of Rambuttan trees were poor and urged Provincial
Councillors to help them to develop their plantations by giving bank
He also requested the authorities to allow them to sell their fruits
in Colombo Fort and Galle Face areas where a large number of foreigners
visit during the evenings. Gemunu Wijetilaka who has a fruit stall near
the Wellawatta Super Market said he does business and requested the
authorities to allow fruit sellers in the city of Colombo to carry out
their business at prominent places.