Carambola, or star fruit, is an attractive yellow-green fruit, with a smooth, waxy skin, that grows on small trees in tropical climates. Its taste is refreshing, without being overly sweet and its texture crisp. Its shape is elongated, with five sections, which, when cut across the fruit (cross-section), resemble a star – hence its alternative name.
Initially mid-green in colour the fruit is still light green when fully grown, when it begins to turn yellowish (ripeness can be judged by the yellowness of the fruit and its more pliable texture).
Possibly originating from Sri Lanka or Indonesia, the carambola (averrhoa carambola), or star fruit, is widely cultivated in Asia and other tropical climates, including North Queensland in Australia, where it is relatively common to see a tree growing in suburban backyards.
Almost ripe star fruit on the tree
Eaten fresh, straight from the tree is an obvious and delicious option! If you don’t have a tree growing in your backyard, try local markets or roadside stalls, where less handling results in undamaged fruit. Unfortunately, the ridges on the five corners of the fruit tend to become damaged with handling; hence, over-ripe yellow fruit may develop brown ridges. If this is the case, just trim them off.
Star fruit is attractive as garnishes in either fruit salad or a savoury
salad and also provides a crunchy texture as well as a refreshing,
pleasant, rather understated flavor.
Often used as the base for drinks its taste is refreshing and slightly sour.
I also like to make jam from star fruit, using slightly under-ripe fruit. The pectin in the fruit helps the jam to thicken and ‘jell’ while the pieces tend to hold together well, making for lumps of fruit, rather than a puree, as happens with some jams.
It is also great as a chutney or added to stews and stir-fries – in other words, rather adaptable!