With its distinctive five-pointed star shape and a tart, sour taste, star fruit has become popular in sweet and savory dishes, juices, and cocktails.
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What is a Star Fruit?
Star fruit (Averrhoa carambola) is a popular tropical fruit belonging to the Oxalidaceae family. While initially native to Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, it is now grown in many tropical regions worldwide, including Latin America, the Caribbean, and parts of the United States.
The fruit is typically 3-6 inches long and has a yellow-green waxy skin with five distinct ridges that run lengthwise along the fruit, giving it its characteristic star shape when sliced. When cut, the fruit’s flesh is crisp and juicy and ranges in color from pale yellow to a vibrant golden hue, depending on the ripeness. When cut into cross-sections, it looks just like a star!
Star fruit is also known by several other names, including bilimbi, kamrakh, Carambola, Chinese star fruit, star apple, and five fingers, depending on the region. It is used in various culinary applications, from sweet to savory dishes, and is often used to garnish salads, cocktails, purees, and desserts.
The History of Star Fruit
Star fruit is a member of the wood sorrel family and originates in Sri Lanka, the Moluccas, India, and Indonesia. Although it is now a relatively new fruit in the United States, it has been cultivated for hundreds of years in Southeast Asia and Malaysia.
Star fruit trees are found in Asia, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Hawaii and Florida are major producers of star fruit in the United States. Despite being cultivated in Hawaii nearly a century ago, star fruit has only recently become readily available in American markets.
What Does a Star Fruit Taste Like?
When eaten raw, a ripe star fruit will taste sweet, juicy, and slightly tangy, with a crisp and crunchy texture. The taste has been compared to a blend of apple, grape, and citrus flavors, with some subtle sour notes. The texture of the fruit is similar to a grape but with a slightly firmer texture.
When cooked, you can use star fruit in dishes like jams, chutneys, sauces, and desserts. The sourness of the fruit is reduced during the cooking process, and the sweet flavor becomes more pronounced. It can also take on the flavors of any spices or seasonings added to the dish.
How to Tell When Star Fruit is Ripe
When selecting a ripe star fruit, there are a few things to remember. Here are some tips to help you choose the best one:
|A ripe star fruit will have a bright yellow-green color. Avoid predominantly green unripe star fruits. Additionally, ripe star fruit can have slightly brown spots.
|Ripe star fruit should be firm but slightly soft. If the fruit is too hard, it may not be ripe; if it is too soft, it may be overripe.
|A ripe star fruit will have a sweet and fragrant aroma. If it smells sour or off, it may be spoiled.
|When first biting into a star fruit, the flavor should be somewhat tart, but also have a subtle sweetness to it. If the fruit is overly tart, that means it is underripe.
Can I Eat Raw Star Fruit?
Most people can safely eat raw star fruit, but it may cause toxicity for people with kidney issues.
You can cook star fruit to reduce the oxalic acid content and make it safer for those with kidney problems or sensitivity to oxalates. You can do so by baking, grilling, or stewing the fruit.
Cooking with Star Fruit
Preparing Star Fruit:
- Wash the fruit thoroughly with water.
- Cut off the ends of the fruit.
- Slice the fruit crosswise into thin, even slices – about 1/4 inch thick.
- Remove the seeds from each slice by cutting them out with a knife or using your fingers to pull them out.
Cooking with Star Fruit:
- Raw: Star fruit can be eaten raw and is often used in salads or as a garnish for cocktails.
- Pickling: You can pickle star fruit in vinegar and sugar, which makes it a great addition to sandwiches or as a condiment for meat dishes.
- Stir-fry: Star fruit can be used in stir-fry dishes and pairs well with shrimp, chicken, or pork.
- Curry: Star fruit is great at brightening up spicy and savory curries. Fish curries significantly benefit from star fruit, as the fruit’s tart undertones pair well with seafood’s common briny and umami flavors.
Here are some of our favorite star fruit recipes!
Shrimp with Star Fruit Curry: A spicy and tangy curry made with star fruit and shrimp, seasoned with simple spices, and complemented by tomatoes and garlic.
Star Fruit Juice: A tangy, sweet juice made with star fruit, sugar, and water. Think of it as a type of star fruit lemonade.
Star Fruit Salad: A refreshing salad with star fruit, fresh greens, raspberries, and red onions. This dish is excellent when complemented with a sweet honey glaze.
Star Fruit Pickles: Some tangy goodness that combines star fruit with asafoetida, chili powder, mustard, and pepper seeds for an exciting flavor.
How to Store Star Fruit
Turning the star fruit regularly is crucial if they are not yet ripe. This will allow all sides of the fruit to be exposed to air and light, which can help it turn a vibrant yellow color and develop light brown ribs.
Once the star fruit has reached this stage of ripeness, you can store it at room temperature for a few days. However, if you prefer to keep it longer, placing it in a plastic bag and storing it in the refrigerator can last up to one week.
Nutritional Benefits of Star Fruit
Star fruit has several health benefits, including potential anticancer properties. It is a good anti-inflammatory that can ease symptoms of psoriasis and dermatitis. Star fruit is also beneficial for weight loss as it has a high fiber content and is a low-calorie option.
It boosts immunity through its high vitamin A and C content and improves respiratory health by soothing sore throats and cutting through mucus and phlegm.
Star fruit is also great for heart health, helping maintain low blood pressure and cholesterol. Lastly, the fruit’s fiber content helps stimulate digestion, relieving symptoms of constipation, bloating, cramping, and diarrhea.
Is It Safe To Eat Star Fruit?
While star fruit is generally considered safe for most people, “star fruit intoxication” can occur in individuals with certain health conditions.
Star fruit intoxication is a condition that develops in individuals with chronic kidney disease or kidney failure who consume too much star fruit. The fruit contains a high concentration of oxalates, which can build up in the body and cause kidney damage in people with pre-existing kidney problems.
In addition to kidney damage, star fruit intoxication can cause neurological symptoms such as confusion, seizures, and even death. These symptoms are thought to be related to a neurotoxin called caramboxin.
Starfruit is generally safe to eat in moderation for healthy individuals with normal kidney function. However, it is best to avoid consuming star fruit if you have kidney problems or are on dialysis.
Where to Purchase Star Fruit
You can find star fruit in many specialty food stores and supermarkets that carry exotic fruits. Farmers’ markets may also have them in season, particularly in tropical areas. You can also purchase star fruit online from various online retailers specializing in exotic fruits and produce.
The availability of star fruit can vary depending on your location, but generally, it is in season from late summer to early winter, with some varieties available year-round.