The carambola is believed to have originated in Sri Lanka and the Moluccas, but it has been cultivated in southeast Asia and Malaysia for many centuries.
When cut, it forms star shapes.
This five-segmented fruit is very attractive since, when cut, it forms star shapes. It has a golden yellow skin and similarly-colored translucent flesh, which is lightly dotted with dark seeds.
In the Philippines, it is known as Balimbing. An amusing aside: the same term is used to refer to hypocrites! Here it is eaten very ripe, when the flesh is soft, sprinkled with a little salt.
Liquefied, it's used as a refreshing juice and given to diabetics to normalize blood sugar levels.
In Chinese medicine, star fruit is known for its diuretic properties.
Nutritional values per 140 g (1 cup)
Calories: 32; water: 90%; protein: 5 g; carbohydrates: 6 g; fat: 0 g; fiber: 1.5 g.
An excellent source of vitamin A (185 mg) and potassium (165 mg).
Look for firm fruit, with smooth shiny skin and translucent pulp. Green coloration is a sign the fruit is underripe. When very ripe, the yellow skin becomes lightly golden and the points begin to turn brown. There are two varieties: sweet and sour.
Star fruit are fragile. They must be handled carefully, since they bruise easily and turn brown. If the star fruit is green, keep at room temperature until the skin turns a nice golden yellow.
Once ripe, it will keep for 2 days at room temperature and up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Freezing: Cut into star-shaped slices. Spread on a sheet pan and freeze individually.
The fruit can be eaten out of hand without having to remove the skin.
Star fruit is usually sliced widthwise so that it's at its most decorative. The star-shaped slices can be eaten raw or used as a garnish for fruit salad and fish.
It is also a good fruit for juicing.
You do not need to peel the fruit, but you should trim each rib and remove the darker green edge which is very bitter.
Star fruit oxidizes quickly; sprinkle it with lemon juice to prevent it from darkening if you're using it in salad.
The sour variety can be sautéed or made into chutney to accompany meat, poultry or seafood. Star fruit needs only a short cooking time.
Sprinkle star fruit slices with brown sugar and thread them onto skewers with other fruits; you can also dip them into a warm mixture of 2 parts honey to 1 part water, alternate them on skewers with cubes of chicken or white fish and grill them.
In light syrup
Place 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan; add 2 cups water, 4 large strips of lime zest and the juice of 4 limes, a vanilla bean, split in half and scraped, and a piece of peeled ginger, minced. Bring to a simmer, stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved, then simmer for 5 minutes. Pour over the sliced fruit.
Photo: Melissa's/World Variety Produce, Inc.
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