What Is A Carambola?

Describes what a carambola is, where it is grown, and provides common uses for the fruit.

Carambola refers to a tropical tree that is grown in a variety of geographical regions including Asia, Central America, South America, the Caribbean islands, and in the United States, commonly in California and Florida. It is thought to have originated south of India, in Sri Lanka, and in the Moluccas. Because it grows in many places throughout the world, carambola is known by many names including bilimbi, kamrakh, spu, nak fuang, and kambola to name a few. It is also popularly called starfruit because of the unique shape of its fruit that resembles a star.

The carambola tree is a member of the evergreen family. It can grow up to 30 feet in height and bears pink/lavender flowers. It also produces a fruit that is oval and star shaped as well as yellow/orange in color. The carambola fruit is typically 3-5 inches in length and has a waxy texture.

Two varieties of carambola fruit are available for purchase. One is the smaller sized carambola, which has a strong, sour taste, and the other is the larger sized carambola, which has a mild and sweet taste. When purchasing carambola fruit, make sure that the fruit is firm to the touch. If you are picking carambola fruit directly from a tree, you can store the fruit for up to four weeks in your home as long as you pick the fruit when it first appears as yellow on the vine and you store it at an approximate temperature of 50ºF. If you store the fruit at a higher temperature, the fruit will ripen quicker.

Carambola fruit is extremely nutritious and contains approximately 36 calories per 100 grams. It can be eaten raw, or used in salads, entrees, or desserts. It is also commonly used as an ingredient in stews, curries, and puddings. Many cultures make a juice out of the carambola, serving it similarly as you would lemonade. It is also being cultivated in certain areas, e.g., Florida, to be made into wine. The taste of this wine is sweet with a somewhat honey-like taste.

Carambola fruit is also popular because of the food value associated with it. 100 grams of carambola fruit contains .38 grams of protein, .08 grams of fat, and approximately .85 grams of fiber. Additionally, throughout the world carambola fruit is combined with other healthy ingredients to produce a well-rounded diet. For example, in New Zealand, unripe carambola fruit is cooked, as a vegetable, and used to accompany an entrée. Other uses for carambola fruit include chopping unripe carambola and combining it with celery, horseradish and other seasonings to make a relish. Carambola fruit is also used as the main ingredient in carambola jelly; it is also combined with papaya in certain recipes to create a unique fruit preserve.

The carambola fruit is extremely diverse in its usage. Because if its attractive appearance, many people like to use the fruit as a decorative piece in their home or, as an edible adornment to buffet and luncheon platters. Carambola fruits are fairy hearty fruits and, if stored and used properly, will enhance any dish for which they have been recommended.

© High Speed Ventures 2011