Star Fruit

Averrhoa carambola

Herbs gallery - Star Fruit

Common names

  • Carambola
  • Star Fruit

Star fruit, also known as carambola, is the fruit of the tree called Averrhoa carambola, which is indigenous to various regions in Asia, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. This is a very well liked fruit all over the Southeast Asia, throughout the South Pacific and some regions of East Asia. Averrhoa carambola trees are grown in all tropical areas, which may not be the native of the star fruit, including the Caribbean, Latin America as well as the southern regions of the United States.

Star fruit comes with typical creases that run down along its sides. Usually, there are five ridges, but the number may vary at times. When cut through the middle, the cross section of the fruit has resemblance to a star and, the star fruit gets its name for this particular characteristic. This fruit can be consumed after cooking or also be used to prepare preserves and relishes. Some people also extract the juice of the fruit and drink it.

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Normally, the star fruit grows up to a length of anything between 2 inches (5.1 cm) and 6 inches (15.2 cm) and is oval-shaped. As mentioned above, generally the fruit has five distinct longitudinal ridges. However, in unusual cases, the fruit may have as less as four or as many as eight ridges. The skin of the fruit is very thin, even and waxy. When ripe, the color of the fruit changes from pale yellow to deep yellow. The flesh of the fruit is semi-transparent and its hue may vary from yellowish to yellow. Each fruit may enclose about 10 to 12 seeds that are flat and have a light brown hue. Each seed measures anything between 0.25 inch and 0.5 inch (0.64 cm to 1.27 cm) wide and is contained in a jellylike aril. The seeds lose their viability in just a few days after they are removed from the fruit.

Carambola is a close relative to another fruit called bilimbi. Similar to bilimbi, there are two varieties of carambola. While the smaller variety is sour (or tastes like tart), the larger variety has a sweet flavour. It has been found that compared to the sweet carambola, the sour variety of the fruit contains a higher level of oxalic acid. In recent times, botanists have developed some cultivars of carambola. On the other hand, a number of sour carambola varieties may turn sweet on ripening.

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Parts used

Fruit, leaves, roots.

Uses

Carambola or star fruit contains a number of nutrients, including antioxidants, vitamin C and potassium. At the same time, the sugar, acid and sodium content of the fruit is very low. Star fruit is also a potent and natural resource of primary as well as secondary polyphenolic antioxidants. It has been established that Averrhoa carambola (star fruit) possesses antioxidant as well as antimicrobial properties. An extract of this fruit can be used to scavenge nitric oxide (NO), but this is entirely subject to the concentration of the extract as well as the maturity of the fruits. It has been found that the fruit extract has antimicrobial activity against Klebsiella spp., E. coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus.

Apart from containing a number of essential nutrients, the calorie content of carambola is very low. A serving of 100 grams of star fruit supplies us with only 31 calories, which is extremely low compared to any other favourite tropical fruit. On the other hand, the number of nutrients enclosed by this fruit is quite impressive. In addition, star fruit also contains antioxidants and a number of vitamins necessary for our well-being.

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Star fruit as well as its waxy peel offer us enough dietary fiber, which works to put off the assimilation of LDL cholesterol (also known as bad cholesterol) taken through ingested foods in the alimentary canal. In addition, dietary fiber is also useful in protecting the mucous membranes that form the lining of the colon from being exposed to toxins. Dietary fiber attaches itself to the carcinogenic chemicals present in the colon.

Chemical analysis of star fruit or carambola has revealed that the fruit encloses excellent amounts of vitamin C - a very potent antioxidant. Generally speaking, consuming fruits that have high vitamin C content helps our body to develop resistance against contagious germs as well as forage the harmful and inflammation causing free radicals in our body.

Star fruit contains rich amounts of flavonoids, antioxidant phyto-nutrient polyphenolic flavonoids. Epicatechin, quercetin and gallic acid are among the few vital flavonoids. Every 100 grams of the fruit contains as much as 143 mg polyphenols, which aid in protecting us from the harmful effects of oxygen released by free radicals - a process known as oxidation. Polyphenols work to get rid of the free radicals from our body. In Brazilian folk medicine, star fruit as well as the juice extracted from it are used in the form of a diuretic, expectorant and also to suppress cough.

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It has been found that consuming star fruit may help to bring down the levels of blood cholesterol and, at the same time, helps to add moisture and bulk to feces, thereby improving bowel movement.

A decoction prepared from the leaves and roots of Averrhoa carambola either separately or together may be useful in relieving headaches, curing chickenpox and getting rid of ringworm.

In addition, it has been found that star fruit is useful for treating hangovers as well as prickly heat. The pickled star fruit is said to be more effective for curing hangovers. Take one piece of fruit, simmer it in water and serve to the person enduring a hangover.

Some people have also used carambola for treating sore eyes.

In addition, nursing mothers are advised to consume star fruit, as it is believed to augment breast milk production.

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Habitat and cultivation

Carambola or the star fruit is native to tropical and sub-tropical regions and it is possible to cultivate this species at an altitude of about 4,000 feet (1,200 meters). This plant has a preference for full sunlight and adequate humidity. It needs about 70 inches or even more rainfall throughout the year. Although Averrhoa carambola does not have any preference for specific soil types, it needs soils having excellent drainage.

It is essential to plant carambola trees at a distance of no less than 20 feet (6.1 meters) apart. Moreover, they need to be fertilized at least thrice every year. Carambola trees have a rapid growth and usually bear fruits four or five years from the date of planting. When the conditions are favourable, each carambola tree can produce massive amounts of fruits - anything between 200 pounds and 400 pounds, annually. However, the fruit production decreases significantly when there is excessive rain during spring. These trees produce flowers all through the year, while they produce fruits twice a year from April to June and again from October to December, especially in Malaysia. In some other places like in South Florida, carambola trees also bear fruits during other times.

This plant is troubled by several different pests, including ants, fruit moths, fruit flies and birds. Moreover, the crops of carambola are also prone to damage by frost, especially in places like the United States.

Star fruit is cultivated in several countries and some countries that are listed as top producers of this fruit globally include the Philippines, Australia, Malaysia, Israel, India, Guyana, the United States and Taiwan. In fact, Malaysia produces the largest volume of star fruit in the world and exports it to various countries in Asia and Europe. People living in the tropical regions of the United States, such as Florida, Texas and Hawaii, cultivate carambola.

Constituents

Star fruit or carambola contains high amounts of vitamin C, which supplies with about 75 percent of our required daily allowance (RDA) of this nutrient. In addition, this fruit also encloses about 5 percent RDA of potassium and a serving of one cup of star fruit provides us with almost four grams of dietary fiber. Trace amounts of a number of vitamins, such as vitamin A (or beta-carotene) and vitamin E, in addition to various essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper and the trace element selenium.

Chemical analysis of star fruit has also revealed that it is an excellent resource of natural B-complex vitamins like riboflavin (B2), folates, pyridoxine (B6) and niacin (B5). Acting together, these B-complex vitamins work in the form of co-factors for enzymes and promote metabolism. In addition, these vitamins help in facilitating an assortment of synthetic functions in our body.

Collection and harvesting

As the star fruit is actually the crop of non-climacteric, it is essential to harvest this fruit immediately when it reopens on the tree itself. Generally, harvesting is undertaken after examining the color of the fruits which changes from yellowish-green or green to yellow or yellowish-orange when they are mature.

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