June 30, 2016

Partly sunny

Green scene: Starfruit

Special to The Gazette

Plant: Starfruit

Latin name: Carambola

Description: The oval, yellow-green and five-tipped starfruit grows on a tree. About the size of a small mango, the fruit is lightweight and has small visible seeds once cut into its unique star shape.

The thin-skinned starfruit tastes sour and sweet with a crunchy texture.

The carambola tree grows only to about 25 to 30 feet tall with its multi-branched habit and deciduous oval-shaped leaves. The medium-hard wood is white, but then turns a reddish color as it matures.

Several seasonal bloom periods allow the carambola to show off its pinkish purple flower clusters which also are beautifully scented.

Nutritionally, the 35-calorie starfruit is about 90 percent water with some vitamin C, calcium and other nutrients but also contains oxalic acid which may affect kidney function (check with your doctor if you have kidney/renal disease).
Origin: Native to the Sri Lankan island previously known as Ceylon, starfruit belongs to the Oxalidaceae family.

Tips: When buying a starfruit, choose a heavy, unblemished, yellow-green ripe fruit. Green fruits can be ripened, cooked or pickled. Wash before eating, as they often are waxed to extend shelf life.

In Ohio, the sub-tropical carambola tree will not survive, but may grow in a large pot indoors. Propagate by seed or grafting.

The grocer’s shelf will likely stock the fruit in September and through some cold winter weeks.

Varieties: Starfruit has been cultivated for hundreds of years in Asian countries. Generally, carambola was grown as a small tart fruit. Today, more varieties are grown and the larger starfruit has milder flavors and tends to be sweeter. Look for Arkin, Dah Pon, Tean Ma, Newcomb, Thayer, Maha, Wheeler and Hoku.

How to use: The starfruit can be eaten raw or cooked, sliced, chopped, pickled, juiced or munched whole. Typically the fruit is prized for its star shape when sliced, making an eye-catching display on a platter or fruit plate.

Try the starfruit is various recipes. Around the world, star fruit is used in Hawaiian sherbets and juices, blended in Indian sauces, used in Malayan stewed fruits and made into Chinese preserves or served with seafood.