If you think starfruit uses are limited to decorative garnishes for fruit salads or fancy arrangements, you might be missing out on a great tasting food with multiple health benefits. Starfruit, also known as the carambola, are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
What to Do with Starfruit
Starfruit grows on tropical trees which were native to Sri Lanka and the Spice Islands. It’s been cultivated for centuries in China and Malaysia. The fruit of the carambola tree can reach 8 inches (20 cm.) long and changes from green to yellow as it ripens. Starfruits are oval-shaped and have five ridges which gives the fruit its characteristic star-shape when sliced.
If you’re wondering how to use starfruit, here are ways carambola has been used around the world:
- Garnish – Using carambola fruit in salads, fruit kabobs, for decorative plating or as a beverage garnish uses the natural shape of the sliced fruit to add appeal to dishes and drinks.
- Jams and preserves – Like other types of fruit, starfruit can be used when making fruit spreads.
- Pickled – Starfruit that isn’t fully ripe can be pickled in vinegar or made into a relish using horseradish, celery and spices.
- Dried – Sliced starfruit can be dried in a dehydrator or baked in the oven to make crispy starfruit chips.
- Cooked – Asian recipes use carambola in shrimp, fish and other seafood dishes. They can be used in curries. Starfruit can also be stewed with sweeteners and spices and combined with other fruit, such as apples.
- Juiced – Starfruit can be juiced with a blend of herbs, such as mint and cinnamon.
- Puddings, tarts and sherbet – Starfruit uses include typical citrus recipes. Simply substitute starfruit as the key ingredient in place of lemons, limes or oranges.
Alternative Starfruit Uses
Using carambola fruit in Eastern medicinal preparations is common practice in several Asian countries. Starfruit has been used as a remedy to control hemorrhages, reduce fevers, lower blood pressure, cure coughs, relieve hangovers, and soothe headaches.
Carambola contains high amounts of oxalic acid and care should be taken when using concentrated preparations for medical purposes. Additionally, people with kidney problems are advised to consult their physicians before incorporating starfruit into their diet.
Due to its acidity, the juice of starfruit has also been used to remove rust stains and for polishing brass. The wood from the carambola tree is used in construction and for furniture making. The wood has a fine texture with a medium to hard density.
Tips for Harvesting Starfruit Plants
Whether you’re picking starfruit off a tree in your backyard or selecting fresh fruit from the market, here’s what you’ll need to know to find the best produce for all these innovative ways you have for using carambola fruit:
- Select fruit which has a yellowish-green color for fresh consumption. Commercial growers harvest starfruit as it begins to ripen. (Pale green with a hint of yellow.)
- The fruit reaches its peak ripeness when the ridges are no longer green and the body of the fruit is uniformly yellow. Brown spots indicate over-ripeness.
- In home orchards, gardeners can allow ripe fruit to drop to the ground. It can also be hand picked from the tree.
- For crisper fruit, harvest in the morning when ambient temperatures are lower.
- Store starfruit at room temperature. Fruit which has passed the peak of ripeness can be stored in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage.