Starfruit is produced by the Carambola tree, a slow-growing bush-type tree originating in Southeast Asia. Starfruit has a mildly sweet flavor that resembles that of green apples. It’s an attractive addition to fruit salads and fruit arrangements due to its star-like shape when sliced horizontally.
Anyone lucky enough to be growing this plant may be wondering how to harvest starfruit once mature. This article can help with that.
Starfruit Harvest Time
Carambola trees grow in warm climates. As a warm-weather, fruit-bearing plant, starfruit trees don’t require a chill period to promote spring blooming and fruit production. As such, starfruit trees are a bit unusual in that they don’t necessarily bloom in a particular season.
This means starfruit harvest time can vary throughout the year. In some locations, trees may produce two or even three crops per year. In other areas, production may continue year-round. Climate and weather play a part in determining when and how often Carambola trees produce fruit.
In areas where there is a definitive blooming season, starfruit harvest time generally occurs in late summer or early fall. When harvesting starfruit at this time of the year, growers can usually expect the highest yields. This is especially true in southern Florida where the prime time for picking starfruit occurs in August and September, and again in December through February.
How to Harvest Starfruit
Commercial growers often harvest starfruit when the fruit is pale green and just beginning to turn yellow. Picking starfruit at this stage of ripeness allows the fruit to be shipped to markets around the world. These fruits can be kept in salable condition for up to four weeks when properly packed and stored at 50 degrees F. (10 C.).
Many home gardeners grow their own produce so they, too, may experience the rich flavor of plant-ripened fruits and vegetables. These gardeners may be wondering when to pick starfruit at its optimal ripeness. Once fully ripe, starfruit will fall to the ground. This can cause bruising and reduce post-harvest storage times, so handpicking is often the preferred method.
Home gardeners can determine when to pick fruit by checking the fruit regularly. Ripe fruit will be yellow with only traces of green on the tips of the ridges. The skin will take on a waxy appearance. Fully ripe starfruit can easily be removed from the tree with only a slight pull. For better storage, try harvesting starfruit in the morning when lower ambient temperatures keep the fruit cooler.
Carambola trees can be quite prolific. During their first two to three years, gardeners can expect annual yields of 10 to 40 pounds (5 to 18 kg.) of fruit per tree. As the trees reach full maturity at 7 to 12 years of age, each tree can produce as much as 300 pounds (136 kg.) of starfruit per year.
If that sounds daunting, keep in mind Carambola trees can produce at various times throughout the year. Starfruit stores fairly well and can be kept at room temperatures for two weeks and refrigerated for about a month. It’s also a versatile fruit with many uses and health benefits.