What is a carambola?
This unique star-shaped fruit truly evokes the tropics. Also known as star fruit, the crisp, juicy flesh tastes a little like a citrusy apple or pear when ripe, with a tart flavour when unripe. The refreshing flavour of the ripe fruit complements many seafood dishes and savoury salads, while in some Asian countries, the less ripe carambola is used like a vegetable and cooked with fish. In India the ripe fruit is juiced and available as a refreshing drink.
This exotic-looking fruit originated in Malaysia and Indonesia. Nowadays it is cultivated in many tropical and subtropical areas of the world.
In Australia, carambolas have been cultivated for many years. Ripe fruit are a favourite in salads, while unripe carambolas are used to make relishes, chutneys or jams.
In Australia, carambolas are not sold by variety. The varieties grown in Queensland include B2, B10, B12, Fwang Tung, Arkin and Giant Siam.
The unripe fruit is a yellow-green colour that ripens to yellow, although some carambolas remain green. Some types of carambola taste more sour than others.
Why carambola is good to eat
- Carambola is a good source of vitamin C (needed for the growth and repair of tissues in the body) and contains some B5 (which helps metabolise proteins and carbohydrates in the body) and folate.
- It also contains minerals such as potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure) and copper.
- Carambola contains dietary fibre, which is important for a healthy bowel.
- Energy – 100 g of carambola supplies 230 kJ.
How are they grown and harvested?
Carambola trees grow best in tropical and subtropical areas. In Australia they are grown in northern New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory. The trees need plenty of water. Trees grown from seedlings produce fruit between five and eight years after planting, whereas those grown from grafts produce fruit when they are one or two years old. Carambola trees grow to between 6 m and 9 m in height.
The temperature affects the quality, size, sweetness, acidity and flavour of the fruit. The number of hours of sunlight, particularly when the fruit is nearly fully developed, affects the sweetness of carambola.
When the fruit is fully ripe it falls to the ground. For the commercial market, fruit is picked by hand to reduce damage and is harvested when it has a tinge of green. Fruit that is yellow all over is too ripe to send to market.
Choose carambolas that are firm with a waxy skin and a crisp appearance. Avoid fruit that has dark blemishes, brown bruises or other visible damage to the skin.
How to store and keep carambolas
Store ripe carambolas in the crisper section of your fridge. Unripe carambolas will ripen at room temperature. Ripe carambolas should be used within a few days of buying.
How to use
- Add a twist to chicken salad – combine sliced carambola with shredded chicken, Asian salad greens, fresh coriander leaves, chopped red chilli and red capsicum, then drizzle with a mixture of lime juice, brown sugar and fish sauce.
- Make a colourful fruit salad – combine sliced carambola with kiwifruit, grapes and cubes of honeydew melon, then drizzle with warm honey and lime juice and scatter fresh chopped mint leaves on top.
- Serve with seafood – mix sliced carambola with cucumber, chopped coriander leaves, chopped basil and spring onions, then dress with sesame oil, minced garlic and lime juice and serve with cooked prawns.
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Better Health Channel
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