1) Plant History & General Information:
- Scientific Name: Averrhoa carambola
- Region of Origin: native to the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia,India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka
- General History: Star fruit, is the fruit of Averrhoa carambola, a species of tree native throughout Southeast Asia, the South Pacific and parts of East Asia. The tree is also cultivated throughout non-indigenous tropical areas, such as Latin America, the Caribbean, and the southern United States. Starfruit has ridges running down its sides (usually five, but can sometimes vary); in cross-section, it resembles a star, hence its name. The entire fruit is edible. They may also be used in cooking, and can be made into relishes, preserves, and juice drinks.
2) Plant Uses:
- The entire fruit is edible, including the slightly waxy skin. The flesh is crunchy, firm, and extremely juicy. It does not contain fibers and has a texture similar in consistency to that of grapes. Carambolas are best consumed shortly after they ripen, when they are yellow with a light shade of green or just after all the traces of green has disappeared. They will also have brown ridges at the edges and feel firm. Fruits picked while still slightly green will turn yellow in storage at room temperature, but will not increase in sugar content. Overripe carambola will be yellow with brown spots and can become blander in taste and soggier in consistency.
- Ripe sweet type carambolas are sweet without being overwhelming as they rarely have more than 4% sugar content. They have a tart, sour undertone, and an oxalic acid odor. The taste is difficult to compare; it has been likened to a mix of apple, pear, and citrus family fruits all at once. Unripe starfruits are firmer and sour, and taste like green apples.
- Ripe carambolas may be used in cooking. In Southeast Asia, they are usually stewed in cloves and sugar, sometimes with apples; China, they are cooked with fish; Australia, they may be cooked as a vegetable, pickled, or made into jams; Jamaica they are sometimes dried. Unripe and sour type carambolas can be mixed with other chopped spices to make relishes in Australia. In the Philippines, unripe carambolas are eaten dipped in rock salt. In Thailand, they are cooked together with shrimp. The juice from carambolas are also used in iced drinks, particularly the juice of the sour varieties. In Hawaii they are used to make sherbet, while in the Philippines they can be used as seasoning. In India, the juice is bottled for drinking.
- In India, the ripe fruit is administered to halt hemorrhages and to relieve bleeding hemorrhoids; and the dried fruit or the juice may be taken to counteract fevers. A conserve of the fruit is said to allay biliousness and diarrhea and to relieve a “hangover” from excessive indulgence in alcohol. A salve made of the fruit is employed to relieve eye afflictions. In Brazil, the carambola is recommended as a diuretic in kidney and bladder complaints, and is believed to have a beneficial effect in the treatment of eczema. In Chinese Materia Medica it is stated, “Its action is to quench thirst, to increase the salivary secretion, and hence to allay fever.”
- A decoction of combined fruit and leaves is drunk to overcome vomiting. Leaves are bound on the temples to soothe headache. Crushed leaves and shoots are poulticed on the eruptions of chicken-pox, also on ringworm.The flowers are given as a vermifuge. In southeast Asia, the flowers are rubbed on the dermatitis caused by lacquer derived from Rhus verniciflua Stokes. Burkill says that a preparation of the inner bark, with sandalwood and Alyxia sp., is applied on prickly heat. The roots, with sugar, are considered an antidote for poison. Hydrocyanic acid has been detected in the leaves, stems and roots. A decoction of the crushed seeds acts as a galactagogue and ernmenagogue and is mildly intoxicating. The powdered seeds serve as a sedative in cases of asthma and colic.
- The trees are also grown as ornamental s for their abundant brightly colored and unusually-shaped fruits, as well as for their attractive dark green leaves and their lavender to pink flowers. The juice of the more acidic sour types can be used to clean rusty or tarnished metal (especially brass) as well as bleach rust stains from cloth. They may also be used as a mordant in dyeing.
3) Growing Instructions
- General: The carambola is a tropical and subtropical fruit. It can be grown at up to 4,000 feet (1,200 m) in elevation. It prefers full sun exposure, but requires enough humidity and a total of 70 inches or more of rainfall a year. Carambola fruit trees do not have a soil type preference, but it requires good drainage.
- Carambola trees are planted at least 20 feet (6.1 m) from each other and typically are fertilized three times a year. The tree grows rapidly and typically produces fruit at four or five years of age. The large amount of rain during spring actually reduces the amount of fruit, but, in ideal conditions, carambola can produce from 200 to 400 pounds (91 to 180 kg) of fruit a year. The carambola tree flowers throughout the year, with main fruiting seasons from April to June and October to December in Malaysia, for example, but fruiting also occurs at other times in some other locales, such as South Florida.
- Difficulties with this plant: Major pests are fruit flies, fruit moths, ants, and birds. Crops are also susceptible to frost, especially in the United States.
History of this Plant at Hedonisia: Unknown
Star Fruit in Mango-Orange Sauce (vegan/gluten-free)
Serves 2-4 people
- 1 fresh ripe star fruit (for more on buying and preparing star fruit, see instructions below)
- 1 cup orange juice, or approx. 2 oranges juiced
- the fruit of 1 fresh ripe mango (for more on mangoes, see below)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar (or substitute a natural sweetener of your choice – maple syrup or agave nectar work well)
- up to 1 cup good-quality coconut milk
- optional: a handful of fresh pomegranate seeds or cherries
- optional: whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (as a topping)
- Place the star fruit (count out 3 slices per person) in a pot on the stove. Add the orange juice. Stir well and turn heat to high until juice begins to boil. Then turn down to medium.
- Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, or until star fruit has softened enough to easily cut into with a spoon. Now and then you can gently move the slices around and turn them over so they all get cooked more or less equally. Remove any more brown seeds that may loosen and surface.
- While star fruit is cooking, place the mango fruit in a food processor, mini chopper, or blender. Process or blend until it is smooth and pureed. Set aside.
- When star fruit is nearly done, adding the sugar/sweetener and stir to dissolve. Remove pot from heat.
- Add the mango puree, stirring well to incorporate. Do a taste-test for sweetness, adding more sugar if needed (how sweet it is will depend on the ripeness of the fruit/juice you’re using). If it happens to be too sweet for your taste, add a squeeze of fresh lime juice, or a little more orange juice.
- When you’re happy with the taste, portion out 3 star fruit slices per bowl with enough sauce to surround the fruit (it should still be warm from the pot). Top each bowl with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds or cherry pieces. Then drizzle over some coconut milk and serve! This dessert is also excellent when given a final topping of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. ENJOY!