Star fruit is too sour to be eaten raw but it is used in jams, jellies, tarts and pickles
Native to Indonesia, this interesting fruit tree in botanical parlance as Averrhoa carambola and is more commonly referred to as Karambola Apple, Chinese Gooseberry and Star Fruit. This tree also known as "pulichakai maram" because of the acidic flavour of the fruit, belongs to the family Averrhoaceae.Averrhoa is named after Averrohoes, a famous Arabian physician and carambola is the Spanish vernacular name of the tree. It is a medium sized tree, with a smooth, dark grey bark and drooping branches. The tiny pink flowers are borne in short branched axillary panicles along the leafy twigs and sometimes on the old trunk. The fruit is a fleshy berry, acutely five-angled and star shaped in cross section and hence, the common name `Star fruit' tree. The green fruits turn translucent yellow on ripening, which are acidic, juicy, aromatic and edible. There are two distinct classes of carambola - the smaller very sour type, richly flavoured with more oxalic acid that are found in Chennai and the larger, so-called `sweet' type, mild flavoured with less oxalic acid common in China.
The highly acidic fruits with a pleasant flavour and a strong quince like scent are too sour to be eaten raw but are used in fruit salads, jams, jellies, tarts and pickles. The fruit is increasingly popular in Western markets as its mild sweet sub-acid flavour, complements many commercial juice drinks. It is rich in vitamins C and B and minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and phosphorous. These sour fruits are also used as a substitute for tamarind in cooking. Popular recipes of the star fruit include carambola chicken rice, carambola avocado salad and carambola bread. The ripe fruit is used medicinally to cure internal haemorrhages and the fruit juice is a good remedy for bleeding piles. A conserve of the fruit is said to allay biliousness and diarrhoea and to relieve a hang over from excessive indulgence in alcohol.Owing to its rich nutritive and medicinal value, star fruits in any form are recommended for health and glow. PAULINE DEBORAH & RIDLING WALLER