Carambola, or starfruit, is the fruit of Averrhoa carambola, a species of tree native to the Philippines (where they are called balimbing or saranate, depending on their sourness), Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka. The tree and its fruit are popular throughout Southeast Asia, the South Pacific and parts of East Asia. The tree is also cultivated throughout the tropics, such as in Peru, Colombia, Trinidad, Ecuador, Guyana, Dominican Republic and Brazil, and, in the United States, in south Florida and Hawaii. The carambola should not be confused with the closely related bilimbi, which is also called balimbing in Indonesia.
The fruit has ridges running down its sides (usually five) which in cross-section resembles a star, hence its name. The number of ridges can vary from three to six.
Origins and distribution
The carambola has been grown in parts of Asia for hundreds of years — it may have originated in Sri Lanka or Moluccas, Indonesia. Malaysia is the global leader in starfruit production by volume and ships the product all over Asia and Europe.
Due to concerns on pests and pathogens, however, whole starfruits cannot yet be imported to the US from Malaysia under current FDA/USDA regulation. In the United States, starfruits are grown in tropical and semitropical areas, including Florida, Puerto Rico and Hawaii.
The fruit is entirely edible, including the slightly waxy skin. The flesh is crunchy, firm, and extremely juicy. The texture is similar in consistency to plums.
Carambolas are best consumed when ripe, when they are yellow with a light shade of green. They will also have brown ridges at the five edges and feel firm. Overripe fruit will be yellow with brown spots and can become soggier in consistency.
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