Serving Starfruit

Starfruit (Averrhoa carambola) belongs to the Oxalidaceae family, which also includes shamrocks.

Starfruit is known many other names including carambola, belimbing or belimbing manis (Indonesia), mafueng (Thailand), kamrakh (Indian) Chinese starfruit, star apple and five-angled fruit.

The star fruit has 4-7 (but typically 5) lobes covered in an edible waxy yellow skin. Its name refers to the shape of the slices when cut crosswise through the lobes.  The flavor of the yellow flesh is reminiscent of citrus fruit and varies from quite sour to mildly sweet, depending upon the variety. Some starfruits contain small dark seeds in the center.

The star fruit is originally native to Philippines, Malaysia, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maluku Islands in Indonesia, and has been cultivated in Southeast Asia and Malaysia for almost 1,000 years.

The genus of the starfruit was named after a 12th-century Arabic physician and philosopher, ʾAbū l-Walīd Muḥammad bin ʾAḥmad bin Rušd, commonly known by his Latinized name Averroës.

Portuguese explorers came across starfruit in India and later in Malaya. It was called carambola in the Malayalam language of southwest India, and this was the name that the Portuguese used. The word carambola is derived from the Sanskrit word karmaranga meaning “appetizer” or “snack.” The Portuguese took the fruit from India to Africa and South America.

When starfruit reached Europe in the 18th century, it was a trendy fruit that was served only in exclusive restaurants.

Starfruit was introduced in the Caribbean islands, Central America, South America, Hawaii over 150 years ago. It was introduced into southern Florida before 1887 and was viewed mainly as a curiosity until recent years. It has been growing in Israel since 1935. In many areas, it was grown more as an ornamental than for its fruits.

By 1987, some small groves had been established in southern Florida, and the fruits were used as “conversation pieces” to decorate gift shipments of citrus fruits, and also, in clear-plastic-wrapped trays, began appearing in the produce sections of some supermarkets. Shipments went mainly to Vancouver, Quebec, Cleveland, and Disney World. Small amounts were sold locally.

Starfruit can:

  1. Fight cardiovascular disease. Starfruits are high in fiber, and fiber helps prevent deaths from coronary heart diseaseCopper helps synthesize collagen and elastin, the substances that provide structure, strength, and elasticity in blood vessels, and plays a role in the conversion of dopamine to norepinephrine, which is involved in regulating blood pressure. Potassium regulates heart rhythm and lowers blood pressure by counteracting the detrimental effects of sodium and regulating fluid balance.
  2. Fight free radicalsVitamin C in starfruit helps protect your cells from free radical damage, which can lead to many diseases including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Copper is important in a number of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant enzymes, including superoxide dismutase (SOD).
  3. Fight cancerVitamin C in starfruit lowers your cancer risk. The fermentation of fiber and resistant starch by bacteria in your large intestine helps to prevent colorectal cancers.
  4. Support your immune systemVitamin C in starfruit supports your immune system.
  5. Maintain your weightFiber helps you maintain an ideal weight by absorbing water, slowing the emptying of your stomach, and adding volume to food so that you feel full longer. Foods high in fiber often require more chewing, so it takes more time to eat, and you can’t eat a large number of calories in a short amount of time. It helps to prevent diabetes by slowing the entrance of glucose into your bloodstream, reducing glucose and insulin spikes after meals.
  6. Promote healthy bloodCopper in starfruit helps produce red and white blood cells and triggers the release of iron to form hemoglobin, the substance that carries oxygen around your body.
  7. Build strong joints and bonesCopper reduces some of the pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis because it is important in a number of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant enzymes, and it helps synthesize collagen and elastin, the substances that provide structure, strength, and elasticity in bones, and joints. Potassium maintains the density and strength of your bones by decreasing urinary calcium loss.

Starfruit contains caramboxin, which is a phenylalanine-like neurotoxin that affects the brain and nerves, primarily in people with kidney disease, but also in people who eat extremely high doses of the fruit. If your kidney function is impaired, eating starfruit can be very dangerous, even deadly. Symptoms of “starfruit intoxication” include persistent hiccups, nausea, vomiting, agitation, insomnia, mental confusion and convulsions that occur within one to five hours of eating the fruit.

Nutrients in 100 Grams of Starfruit

Nutrient

Amount

Daily Value

vitamin C

34.4 mg

57%

fiber

2.8 g

11%

copper

0.1 µg

7%

potassium

133 mg

4%

pantothenic acid

0.4 mg

4%

folate

12 µg

3%

magnesium

10 mg

2%

choline

7.6 mg

2%

carbohydrates

6.8 g

2%

protein

1 g

2%

niacin

0.4 mg

2%

manganese

0.037 mg

2%

Calories

31

1.5%

vitamin A

61 IU

1.2%

vitamin E

0.2 mg

1%

zinc

0.1 mg

1%

vitamin B6

0.017 mg

1%

riboflavin

0.016 mg

1%

thiamine

0.014 mg

1%

iron

0.1 mg

0.55%

fat

0.3 g

0.46%

calcium

3 mg

0.3%

sodium

2 mg

0.08%

cholesterol

0 mg

0%

lutein-zeaxanthin

66 µg

carotene-ß

25 µg

carotene-α

24 µg

The season for starfruit is late summer to mid-winter.

Look for firm, shiny, brightly and evenly colored starfruit that are a little soft and flexible. Avoid overly crisp fruits as they are less likely to be sweet. Also avoid purchasing starfruit with brown, shriveled ribs.  Those with tinges of green on the lobes may be further ripened at room temperature. Once they’ve turned a golden or orang color, with brown lines along the “seams,” star fruit can be eaten whole — skin, flesh, seeds and all. You may also be able to find starfruit dried, although the ones I’ve seen contain added sugar.

Wash ripe starfruit under cold tap water and eat it whole. You can also cut cut them crosswise and snack on the star-shaped slices. These slices are also the perfect garnish for a chilled summer fruit salad. You can also blend starfruit into smoothies. Finally, try substituting star fruit for citrus in both savory and sweet recipes.

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