Star fruit, also known as carambola, can be found in abundance in Southeast Asia where it is heavily cultivated. The yellow fruit grows on trees in India, Asia, South America, Australia, and the southern United States, but it's enjoyed raw and cooked all over the world. While it's frequently used as a garnish due to its fun shape, it also adds a sweet flavor to a number of dishes like salads and cocktails.
What Is Star Fruit?
The carambola plant is believed to be native to Indonesia and flourishes in sunny, humid climates. It is harvested twice a year, typically in late fall and late spring, but can be found year-round. The yellow, oval-shaped fruit has ridges and looks like a star when sliced. Depending on the variety, it can vary slightly in size and color, from light yellow-green to bright yellow. The entire star fruit can be eaten, including the waxy skin, making it easy to prepare and especially good for eating raw and using for decoration. Due to its lack of cultivation and popularity in the U.S., star fruit is more expensive than more common fruits like apples.
Star fruit does not require peeling, making it a quick and easy snack. For the sweetest fruit, look for star fruit that is bright yellow in color and lightly browned on the edge of the ridges. Green fruit tastes slightly more acidic, and what ripeness you choose will depend on your personal preference. Unripe fruit will continue to ripen after it's picked. Regardless of ripeness, choose star fruit that is free of blemishes and brown spots.
Washed fruit can be sliced to reveal the star shape by placing the fruit flat on a cutting board. Remove both ends with a knife and cut across the ridges into slices. The seeds are technically edible but not tasty, so remove them with your fingers or a small knife. Star fruit can be eaten as is, added to fruit or vegetable salads, used as a garnish for dishes or cocktails, and more. In Southeast Asia, it's often stewed with sugar and spices like cloves or used in savory dishes like fish and shrimp. In Australia, the unripe or ripe fruit is cooked as a side dish, pickled, or turned into a chutney or relish. Star fruit can also be dried.
Star fruit has a sweet flavor with a slightly sour undertone and a juicy, firm flesh like a grape. The fruity taste is difficult to describe, landing somewhere between ripe pear, green grape, and orange. Unripe fruits are firmer and tarter, more like a green apple in flavor.
Star fruit makes a lovely addition to a fruit salad, tart, cake, pavlova, or sangria. Use the star shapes to add fruitiness to a green salad or to decorate a cheese or snack platter. After removing the seeds, the fruit can also be pureed or juiced and added to smoothies and drinks.
- Star fruit in mango-orange sauce
- Easy Thai fruit salad
- Simple white wine sangria
Star fruit can often be found year-round in the supermarket produce section. It's usually sold individually per pound or sometimes packaged in groups of three or four. If your local market doesn't carry star fruit, visit an Asian market. The fruit is popular in Southeast Asia and can frequently be found in specialty markets. Star fruit is also grown commercially in the southern United States and may appear at farmers' markets in places like Florida, Texas, and California.
Look for star fruit that is bright yellow or yellow-green in color, heavy for its size, and firm but not hard. When the fruit is ripe, the ridges turn light brown.
Star fruit can be grown at home in warm climates. The small trees take well to growing in pots and can be moved inside during the winter to avoid frost.
Store star fruit on the counter at room temperature away from sunlight. Depending on the ripeness, star fruit will keep for a few days. Once the fruit's ridges have turned from green to light brown, store it in the fridge for up to four days to keep it from getting too ripe. Overripe fruit will have brown spots all over and can have a fermented flavor. Star fruit puree or juice will keep in the fridge for a few days and can be frozen in an airtight container for up to three months.
Nutrition and Benefits
Star fruit is low in calories and fat and high in vitamin C, providing 41 percent of the daily recommended value in a 100-gram serving. The juicy fruit is mostly water, making it a light and healthy snack.
Star fruit contains oxalic acid and caramboxin. Both substances are potentially harmful to those with kidney problems and should be avoided. Star fruit should also be avoided by those taking certain prescriptions like blood pressure medication because it acts as an inhibitor like grapefruit.