Carambola, also often referred to as star fruit, is a fruit that comes from Averrhoa carambola, a species of tree native to tropical Southeast Asia. This fruit is common in various countries such as Brazil, South Pacific, and South Asia, Southeast Asia, the USA, the Caribbean, East Asia, and Micronesia. Therefore, the Averrhoa carambola tree is cultivated throughout the tropical areas of the world. Carambola is a fruit with distinctive ridges running down its sides, usually 5 to 6. When this fruit is cut in cross-section, it resembles a star, which has given it the name “star fruit.”
Another benefit of this fruit is that it’s completely edible, which means you can eat it raw, cooked, or make into relishes, preserves, juices, and garnish. The Averrhoa carambola originated from Southeast Asia, where it’s been cultivated for centuries. It then spread to the Indian Subcontinent and Sri Lanka by the Austronesian traders and the ancient Austronesian cultigens such as langsat, santol, and noni. They are still common in those areas and East Asia and throughout Oceania and the Pacific Islands. In India, the carambola fruits are cultivated commercially and other parts such as Taiwan, Florida in the USA, Southeast Asia, and Southern China.
Carambola is also grown in South America, Central America, the Caribbean, parts of Africa, and even Hawaii. It’s also worth noting that they are grown as ornamentals and are considered to be at risk of becoming invasive species in many world regions. As a result, there are many carambola fruit names such as carambold, Chinese gooseberry, coromandel gooseberry, five corners, carambolier in French, and carambolo in Spanish. Other names include balimbing in Southeast Asia, karamanga in India, and ma fen in China. The entire carambola fruit is edible, including its slightly waxy skin. It also has crunchy flesh that is firm and incredibly juicy.
However, carambola doesn’t contain fibers and tends to have a texture similar in consistency to that of grapes. The best time to eat carambolas is after they ripen when they have a yellow color with a light shade of green or after all the traces of green have disappeared. Also, when they are ripe, they tend to have brown edges and feel firm. Fruits that are picked while slightly green will turn yellow in storage at room temperature but won’t increase the sugar content. Overripe carambolas are yellow and have brown spots. They can also become blander and soggier.
Ripe sweet type carambolas are sweet since they rarely have more than 4 percent sugar content. Therefore, they tend to have a tart, sour undertone and an oxalic acid odor. It’s difficult for the taste to match but has been compared to a mix of pear, grape, apple, and citrus family fruits. Unripe star fruits are firmer, sour, and taste like green apples. You can use ripe carambolas in cooking. In fact, they are typically stewed in sugar and cloves in Southeast Asia and sometimes in apples. In China, carambolas are cooked with fish; in Australia, they are cooked as vegetables, and in Jamaica, they are dried.
The unripe and sour carambolas can be mixed with other chopped spices to make relishes in Australia. In the Philippines, unripe carambolas are eaten dipped in rock salt, while in Thailand, they are cooked alongside shrimp. The juice from carambolas is also used in iced drinks such as the sour variety ones. Also, in the Philippines, carambolas are used as a seasoning, while in India, the juice is bottled for drinking. Raw carambolas provide plenty of benefits, such as adding nutritional value to our bodies and other micronutrients.
Types of Star Fruit
There is a smaller and sweeter carambola and the larger and sweeter carambola. The sweet carambolas are recommended for fresh fruit, while both the sweet and tart carambolas are helpful for processing and home recipes. Some of the tart cultivars like the “Golden star” get their sweet flavor when they are allowed to ripen on the tree. This is why when they are ripe; they tend to become golden yellow – a good indication of ripe star fruit. Carambolas are also grown in warm areas of Florida, such as the southeastern and southwestern parts.
The red star fruit tree requires warm to hot temperatures to grow appropriately and well-drained soil. It also needs continuous access to soil moisture and protection from the wind. Therefore, it’s crucial to note that carambolas grow best in warm to hot areas, although they also do well in warm subtropical regions that only experience occasional freezing temperatures. The best range of temperatures for growth and fruiting are between 860F and 950F. Most trees usually stop growing at temperatures below 650F. Air temperatures between 300F to 320F tend to kill young leaves, young trees, and twigs. Temperatures between 270F and 290F may kill mature leaves. Some small branches may be damaged at 250F to 290F, while large branches and mature trees may be killed at temperatures between 200F and 240F.
Some of the symptoms of freezing damage include water soaking, leaf wilting, desiccation, and drop; tree death, fruit drop, and stem and limb dieback. Therefore, carambola trees have a limited tolerance to drought. The arid soil conditions or drought symptoms include yellowing and browning of leaves, leaf folding, and wilting. When it comes to flooding, carambolas are moderately tolerant to excessive wet or flooded soil conditions for approximately 2 to 10 days. However, the flood tolerance will depend on the tree’s health, air temperatures, and the presence of root diseases. But, during flooding, the tree ceases to grow, and in case the wet conditions persist, it develops symptoms of flooding.
The symptoms of excessively wet soil conditions include leaf and fruit drop, stem and limb dieback, leaf wilting, yellowing, and browning of leaves. If the wet conditions persist, it may result in tree death. Additionally, root rotting fungi may attack the root system and cause the trees to decline, dieback, or even die.
How to Eat Carambola
There are many ways to eat carambola in your home. For example, if you happen to buy a carambola that is not fully ripe, you can leave it for several days in your kitchen to allow it to ripen. But you have to eat the fruit before it becomes overripe as that makes it lose flavor and may also develop brown spots, thereby making it unhealthy to eat. You should also note that it’s dangerous for people with kidney issues to eat carambolas.
So, how do you eat carambola? Here are several ways to do that.
- You need to eat a star fruit that has yellow skin. That’s because a ripe star fruit is firm and has vibrant yellow skin—the yellow the skin, the sweeter the fruit. So a yellow star fruit with a bit of brown along the edges is suitable.
- Cut the fruit into slices and eat it plain. Then, you can use a sharp knife to divide the fruit into star-shaped pieces. However, you need to wash the fruit properly before slicing it. Rinse the carambola under running water and scrub it with your fingers until you remove any hiding dirt.
- Ensure you remove the edges and seeds before eating, even if every part of the fruit is edible. Hold the carambola steady with one hand, glide a sharp, smooth kitchen knife along the edges, and make the cut where the green or brown part of the edge begins. Slice it thinly to remove the discolored portion of the edge. Slice the ends and poke the center of the star fruit with the tip of your knife, to remove the seeds.
- Another way to eat star fruit is to include it in your salad. Toss the star fruit with other tropical fruits to create a colorful blend of sweet-and-sour flavors. Some fruits that pair well with carambolas are strawberry, pineapple, citrus fruits, mangoes, banana, grapes, kiwi, and papaya. You can also include lemon vinaigrette, orange glaze, fruit cocktail syrup, and honey to add a bit of flavor. For a more tropical twist, garnish the fruit salad with a bit of shredded coconut.
- Mix the star fruit into leafy green salads to make an appealing addition. Make the salad simple and use ingredients such as chives, romaine lettuce, avocado, and sweet bell pepper. Avoid traditional garden salad ingredients such as cucumbers, shredded cheddar cheese, and carrots. Consider light vinaigrette dressings like balsamic vinaigrette, Italian vinaigrette, lemon vinaigrette, and raspberry vinaigrette.
- Another way to eat carambola is to use it as an exotic garnish. This is one way of decorating platters and dishes for an edible garnish. For example, add sliced carambolas to the top of tropical-flavor cakes or ice cream, decorate plates of tropical entrees, or cut small pieces of star fruit and hang them off the side of cocktail glasses.
Here are some ideal carambola recipes to consider.
1. Star Fruit Chips Recipe
This star fruit chips recipe is ideal for making in your home whenever you’re looking for a unique and easier way to eat carambolas. Check it out below.
- Two cups of water
- Two medium to large star fruit
- 1 ½ inch piece of ginger properly sliced
- Sea salt or cinnamon sugar for sprinkling
- Heat your oven to 2000F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment.
- Cut the star fruit into thin and even slices approximately ¼ inch thick or less.
- Put a saucepan over medium-high heat, dissolve the sugar in water, and add the ginger. Bring it to boil. After boiling, reduce the heat, add the carambola, and simmer for several minutes. Remove it from heat and set aside for 20 minutes.
- Use tongs to transfer each slice to the lined baking sheet to allow the excess syrup to drip off.
- Bake the slices for an hour or until they are well dried and crisp.
- Sprinkle in a bit of cinnamon sugar or a pinch of sea salt.
- Put the chips in an airtight container for a few days.
Pro Tip: You can reserve the leftover carambola-ginger syrup for lemonade or cocktails.
2. Carambola Upside-Down Cake Recipe
It’s surprising to note that in this upside-down cake, star fruit tastes almost like an apple.
- ½ lemon juice.
- Three tablespoons of unsalted butter and add more for greasing the pan,
- Three tablespoons of light brown sugar.
- 3 or 4 carambolas properly cut into ¼ inch thick stars and remove the seeds.
- 1 ¼ cups of whole meat pastry flour.
- ¾ teaspoon of baking powder.
- ½ cup of pecans.
- One teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
- ¾ teaspoon of baking soda.
- ½ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg.
- ½ teaspoon of kosher salt.
- ¼ teaspoon of ground allspice.
- Two large eggs.
- ½ cup of low-fat yogurt
- 2/3 cup of packed light brown sugar.
- One stick (8 tablespoons) of unsalted butter at room temperature.
- Put your oven rack at the center of the oven and preheat to 3500F. Butter a 9-inches round cake pan.
- Melt the butter, lemon juice, and brown sugar in a microwave for the topping. Spread the mixture in the bottom of the prepared pan and cover it with the carambola slices by nestling them aside from each other and overlapping. Set them aside.
- Spread the pecans on the baking sheet and bake until well toasted for 8 to 10 minutes. Allow it to cool and then pulse in a food processor until adequately grounded. Whisk the ground pecans together with baking powder, nutmeg, flour, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, and salt. Set them aside.
- Use an electric mixer to beat the brown sugar and butter on medium-high speed until fluffy and light for about five minutes. Add all eggs, one at a time, and beat to incorporate after each addition. Scrape down the side of the bowl and adjust the mixer speed to low, and then add half the flour mixture, yogurt, and the remaining flour.
- Pour the butter into the pan and spread it out into an even layer. Bake until golden brown and use a toothpick or cake tester for about forty-five to fifty minutes.
- Let it cool until the pan is cool enough to handle.
- Cut the edge and invert the cake onto a serving platter.
- Allow it to cool properly before serving.
- Star Fruit Quencher Recipe
If you’re looking for an ideal beverage for summer, then this is the best option to consider. This is because it’s pretty easy to prepare and only takes 5 minutes.
- Half cup of pineapple juice
- Three tablespoons of ginger syrup
- Four carambolas cut into ½ inch slices
- One tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
- Two cups of crushed ice
- Carambola slices
- Half cup of lemon-lime flavored sparkling water properly chilled
- Put the pineapple juice and the carambola slices into a blender and process until smooth. Pour the mixture through a sieve into a pitcher to measure two cups. Discard any solids.
- Stir in the ginger syrup and lemon juice, and then cover and refrigerate for 45 minutes.
- Fill two glasses with one cup of crushed ice.
- Pour the star fruit mixture over ice and add ¼ cup of sparkling water to each glass.
- Garnish with carambolas slices if you wish.
Carambola offers plenty of benefits such as nutrients, disease prevention, and many others. See below all the benefits you can expect to get from eating star fruit.
1. It Helps Your Digestive Health
Carambola contains fiber content which significantly contributes to total daily fiber content and promotes bowel regulation. The provided fiber further assists in reducing issues such as gastrointestinal conditions like hemorrhoids. Since it is known for helping digestive health, the rich fiber content in carambola comes in handy when you eat the fruit.
2. Boosts Immunity
Carambola is also rich in vitamin C that helps to boost the immune system in our bodies. Therefore, when you eat star fruit daily or consistently, it helps fight cold, flu, and other body infections. In addition, it offers a robust immune system that can fight plenty of common diseases in the body.
3. Prevents Diseases
Star fruit helps to combat diseases thanks to the antioxidant properties of vitamin C. The rich antioxidants in vitamin C help protect the cells against damage since healthy cells can withstand cancer and heart disease. Therefore, if you have an ideal weight, then it helps to reduce any risks of diseases.
4. Assists in Weight Loss and Maintenance
Star fruit is low in calories and still helps to offer dietary fiber. Therefore, the combination of keeping the calories in balance and increasing the fiber helps to encourage both weight loss and maintenance in the body.
5. Star Fruit is Hydrating
The process of drinking eight glasses of water per day to stay healthy can sometimes be a daunting task. Luckily, star fruit has the right solution to this requirement. Although it’s still essential for you to drink enough water daily, star fruit can act as the perfect substitute whenever you cannot drink water. This is because it is a hydrating fruit that contains approximately 91.4 percent of water content. Therefore, eating star fruit can significantly provide your body with enough water. This is an ideal Averrhoa carambola medicinal use.
6. Carambola Regulates Blood Pressure
Carambola is rich in calcium, which helps to reduce the risks of heart attacks and strokes since it relieves stress on the blood vessels and arteries. In addition, since it eliminates pressure, your heart can relax and make circulation more effective. Therefore, this eventually helps the fluid balance in your body to be well maintained.
7. Reduces Cataract Risk
Other Averrhoa carambola uses include helping to reduce the risk of cataracts. A cataract is when your eye’s lens becomes cloudy and results in blurred vision and potential blindness. Vitamin C now comes in handy in cataract prevention due to its high antioxidant properties. Therefore, star fruit can significantly help you reduce any risks of cataracts.
8. Star Fruit Is Anti-Inflammatory
Carambolas also have exceptional anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants that help prevent skin disorders such as dermatitis. Also, vitamin C in carambola helps flush out toxins and maintain a healthy body.
Averrhoa carambola leaf extract is an appetite stimulant, diuretic, antidiarrheal, and febrifugal agent.
The carambola tree produces excellent fruits if well taken care of and watered accordingly. It is an ideal tree that generally grows in tropical areas and offers plenty of benefits.
How Does Carambola Tree Look Like?
The carambola tree has a simple look and grows appropriately. The tree has a short trunk with plenty of branches that reach up to 30 feet high or approximately 9.1 meters high. It has deciduous leaves about 6 to 10 inches long or approximately 15 to 25 centimeters long. The leaves also have 5 -11 ovate leaflets that are medium-green in color.
Surprisingly, carambola trees also bear lilac flowers in color, with purple streaks, and they are approximately 0.25 inches wide or 6.4 mm. Therefore, it’s safe to safe the tree has an appealing look that can complement your garden or backyard. Unfortunately, a carambola tree also takes 10 to 14 months to produce fruit.
How Tall Is the Carambola?
The carambola is small to medium height measuring between 22 and 33 feet high, or 7-10 meters high. It spreads about 20 to 25 feet in diameter or 6-7.6 meters and single or multi-trunked. The carambola trees are evergreen, although when you grow them in cooler areas, they tend to lose some or all their leaves during winter and early spring. However, it’s also worth noting that the height of a carambola tree will highly depend on its variety. Some varieties can grow too tall, while others can’t.
Carambola or star fruit is an exceptional fruit that has a lot of benefits to offer. The advantage of this fruit is that its tree is easy to grow. Once the fruits mature, they are easy to eat, prepare, or incorporate into other dishes or make into juice, and the fruit provides plenty of benefits to our bodies.
But, it’s crucial to note that this fruit is not suitable for people with kidney problems – as little as 100 ml can be deadly to someone suffering from kidney issues.