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What is Carambola?

Carambola is tangy and pairs nicely with sweeter fruits.
Carambola is more commonly known as starfruit.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2014
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Carambola is an Asian tropical fruit which is also known as star fruit or starfruit. It has a crisp texture and a tangy flavor which makes it popular in salads, desserts, and relishes. In addition to the Asian tropics, carambola is also under cultivation in parts of Latin America, where the trees thrive in humid, warm conditions. California and Florida also commercially grow star fruit, in their warmer areas. Many grocery stores carry carambola, since the unusual looking tropical fruit has a small but dedicated following.

The tree appears to have originated in Sri Lanka and India, and it is also under widespread cultivation in Indonesia. A carambola tree can grow to be as large as 32 feet (10 meters), with dense, spreading branches. The leaves are compound, and pink flowers appear interspersed on the tree before they mature into the yellowish to brown fruits. The fruit of the carambola tree has five distinct sections arranged around a central axis. When the fruits are cut into chunks or slices, the individual segments strongly resemble stars.

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Botanists classify carambola as tropical to subtropical, since more mature trees can handle cooler temperatures. Many people grow starfruit as a decorative container plant, as the foliage and flowers are quite attractive. A container plant can also be moved, which is convenient for people in cooler regions since they can keep the plant indoors during the winter, when it is at risk of frostbite. Carambola is also very slow growing, and it can take several years to mature enough to fruit, while container plants rarely fruit since they often do not have enough room to fully grow up.

The five-segmented fruit is a favorite in Asian cuisine because of the tangy, slightly sour flavor. Sweeter cultivars are rarely very high in sugar, although they may be less mouth puckering. Carambola can be eaten plain, added to an assortment of mixed fruits, used in a salad for texture and taste, diced into relish, or incorporated into desserts. The texture reminds many consumers of pears or apples, as it is crisp and slightly granular.

Like many acidic fruits, carambola is an excellent source of vitamin C. Since the skin is also edible, carambola can provide dietary fiber as well. Some consumers prefer to consume carambola in the form of juice. When selecting a star fruit to consume, look for a firm, evenly colored specimen. The ridges of the carambola may be slightly tinged with brown.

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seafoam
Post 3

I just wanted to add the signs to look for if you've eaten a carambola and shouldn't have.

Here are some signs you've got starfruit intoxication: You might start with hiccups that never stop. Vomiting is common, numbness in limbs, muscle twitches, convulsions, insomnia and confusion are the clues you may have star fruit intoxication.

Remember that carambola recipes are delicious and very common. However, if you suffer from a kidney problem, this fruit should be considered one that you should avoid.

rosequartz
Post 2

@anon12818 - good catch! The National Kidney Foundation always advises in its guidelines for adults starting on Hemodialysis to avoid eating the Star Fruit (carambola).

Carambolas are found in my local grocery stores all summer long (I live in the subtropics) and I've used them in many recipes throughout the years.

I've especially loved them when they are sliced (and look like a perfect star) and perched atop a grilled kebob. Festive and tasty - like a blend of a lime and an apple - carambolas are safe to eat for most of us. But if you have kidney problems, this star is not for you.

anon12818
Post 1

Don't forget to mention the dangers: People with Kidney problems (dialysis patients) should stay FAR away as it can cause death.

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