Star fruit is a small, bushy evergreen tree that grows very well under hot, humid, tropical conditions. The plant bears small lilac colored, bell-shaped flowers in clusters which subsequently develop into oblong shaped fruits with characteristic five angled edges (sides or ribs) that appear like a starfish in cross sections. The tree is also a very heavy fruiter, just take a look at the photo below! Both sweet and sour varieties begin to yield under cultivable orchards, and are ready for harvesting when the plants reach about 3-4 years old.
Carambola fruit appears light-green to yellow with an attractive smooth waxy surface, each weighs about 70-130g. Inside, its crispy, juicy pulp can either be mildly sweet or extremely sour depending upon the cultivar type and the amount of oxalic acid concentration. In some variety types, 2-5 tiny edible seeds are found at the center of each angled cavity.
Just take a look at this:
- Star fruit is one of the very low calorie exotic fruits available. 100 g fruit provides just 31 calories, which is much lower than for any other popular tropical fruits. Nonetheless, it has an impressive list of essential nutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins required for well-being.
- The fruit along with its waxy peel provides a good amount of dietary fiber. Fiber helps prevent absorption of dietary LDL cholesterol in the gut. The dietary fibers also help protect the mucous membrane of the colon from exposure to toxic substances by binding to cancer-causing chemicals in the colon.
- Star fruit contains good quantities of Vitamin-C. Vitamin C is a powerful natural antioxidant. 100 g of fresh fruit provides 57% of daily-required levels of vitamin C for just the 31 calories mentioned above! In general, consumption of fruits rich in vitamin C assists the human body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.
- Star fruit is rich in the antioxidant phytonutrient called polyphenolic flavonoids. Some of the important flavonoids present are quercetin, epicatechin, and gallic acid. Altogether, these compounds help protect from deleterious effects of oxygen derived free radicals by warding them off the body.
- In addition, it is a good source of B-complex vitamins such as folates, riboflavin, and pyridoxine (vitamin B-6). Together, these vitamins help as co-factors for enzymes in metabolism as well as in various synthetic functions inside the body.
- The fruit also carries small amounts of minerals and electrolytes like potassium, phosphorus, zinc and iron. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids and helps in controlling heart rate and blood pressure; thus, it counters the bad influences of sodium. Most Western diets involve the over consumption of sodium.
- Star fruit and its juice is often recommended in many folk medicines in Brazil as a diuretic (to increase urine output), expectorant, and to suppress cough.
While buying, choose uniform, large, attractive looking, yellow-orange fruits. Avoid green, small size fruits since they tend to be extremely acidic, and unappetizing. Avoid those with cuts, bruises, or are shrivelled or spotted.
Ripe fruits tend to perish early; however, they stay well in cold storages when kept at appropriate temperatures in your refrigerator. At home, unripe light green fruits may be kept at room temperature until they turn rich orange-yellow in color and then need to be refrigerated. Ripe fruits may keep well for 2-3 days at room temperature, but must be stored inside the refrigerator for extended shelf life.
Here are a few preparation tips:
- Star fruits are generally used as a garnish in salads, sorbets, drinks, as well as to impart tart flavor in dishes.
- Given their high oxalic acid content and extreme tartness, they are used quite less frequently in food the industry than other tropical fruits.
- To prepare, wash them thoroughly in cold water, dry mop using absorbent cloth or paper towels. Trim off the ends and dry edges of the ribbed angles. Cut the fruit crossway into thin sections, which resemble a star. (Wow! This must be how they got their name! -Duh!!)
- Pick out any seeds located near the center if you wish.
Now a few serving tips:
- Only sweet variety carambola can be eaten fresh, or mixed with other fruits in salads. Fresh fruit can also be juiced and used in cocktails with other complementing tropical fruit juices.
- Sour type fruits are favored in cooking as they impart a unique tart flavor to poultry, beef, lamb, and seafood dishes.
- Cut sections of fresh fruit added in stews, curries, and stir-fries with chicken, fish and shrimp are very popular in many Asian dishes.
- The fruit can be used to make sauces, pickles, chutney, tarts, and jams.
If you have any recipes for using this wonderful gift of nature let us know about them in the comments section.