carambola star fruit guide: how to use in recipes, how to pick, and what it tastes like
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Tropical fruit fans, here’s everything you need to know about star fruit (or carambola).

What Is Star Fruit?

If you have been reluctant to try the exotic waxy looking greenish-yellow star shaped fruit before, here are some facts that would help change your mind. The five-point fruit is officially called carambola, but popularly known as star fruit.

Star fruit originated in Southeast Asia, and can be found in South Pacific, Caribbean and the hot, humid climate of Florida as well. The star fruit tree has gorgeous pink flowers when new fruits emerge.

Larger star fruit have a mild sweet flavor while the smaller varieties are tart and sour. The translucent flesh is crunchy and juicy, similar to a green apple.

Is Star Fruit Healthy?

Packed with Vitamin C, antioxidants and dietary fiber, star fruit is easy on calories and sugar. It also contacts minerals like zinc, phosphorus, magnesia, sodium, iron and potassium, among others. Among other health benefits, star fruit helps with digestion, reduces cholesterol, and has anti-inflammation properties.

In India, carambola juice is used to allay fever and sooth eye infections according to Ayurvedic natural medicine doctrine, while in Brazilians the fruit is said to treat bladder and kidney issues.

However, due to its high oxalic acid content, star fruit is not advisable for people with kidney problems and those taking certain prescriptions to eat star fruit.

How to Pick a Star Fruit

The best way to pick a star fruit at the grocery store is by looking at its color. A green fruit will taste tart and is not ripe. A deep golden yellow color with brown edges indicates a ripe, sweet fruit that is ready to eat. If you have access to carambola trees, avoid picking the fruit before maturity unless you want a sour and citrusy flavor. Unlike other fruit, carambola doesn’t ripen on the counter, but it can stay in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

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How to Use Star Fruit

Before eating any fruit, make sure to wash it thoroughly. Use a small knife or vegetable peeler to trim the top layer of the thick brown or green ribs (this will make the star points look less sharp, so you can skip it for aesthetics if you prefer). Slice off and discard the ends and then slice in quarter inch pieces across the width of the fruit, similar to a cucumber, to reveal the star shape.

The entire fruit is edible and you don’t need to peel or seed it (though the seeds don’t taste great, so you may want to scrape them away with the point of the knife).

Star fruit is often eaten raw, by itself, sliced in colorful fruit salad (try pairing it with dragon fruit, pineapple, and mango), or blended into a refreshing juice. Sprinkle rock salt and red chili powder on fresh star fruit slices for a quick summer snack. Stew it with sugar, ginger and cloves to make marmalades, chutneys, relishes, and preserves. Bake or dehydrate sliced star fruit for delicious and healthy homemade chips, or add it to your homemade trail mix. Or pickle it to preserve it. The shape makes it a great garnish for dessert, and you may use a tart or sweet variety.

Star fruit is great in stews and on the grill too. Similar to pineapple, you can throw chunks of ripe star fruit on the grill alongside shrimp and steaks, and enjoy it as a side. The flesh holds firm when cooked, so you can add it to stir fries and Asian-style curries as well.

The star shaped slices also make for pretty garnishes on cocktails and desserts, such as trifles, pancakes, and upside down cakes. Save up the pulp for a tropical yogurt, smoothie, or overnight oats, or freeze slices on sticks overnight to make a refreshing popsicle.

Serve up a tropical star fruit mimosa or add it to your sangria for a fun twist. With a fruit so versatile, the possibilities are endless!

Related Video: Keep Your Eyes Peeled for These Hybrid Fruits Too

Header image courtesy of Thu Thai Thanh / EyeEm / Getty Images

Sucheta Rawal is an award-winning food and travel writer, author of ‘Beato Goes To’ series of children’s books, and founder of the nonprofit ‘Go Eat Give.’ Follow her at @SuchetaRawal or visit her at www.suchetarawal.com.
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