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TIP OF THE DAY: Starfruit (Carambola)

Don’t pass up the opportunity to decorate your food with starfruit this season. These “edible stars” can be used just about everywhere:

  • A garnish on anything from drinks to desserts
  • As a “star” ingredient in fruit salad
  • On fruit or cheese skewers
    They pair with savory as well as sweet foods, and are a lovely decoration on platters and plates.

    Starfruit or carambola (star fruit is an alternate spelling) is the fruit of a species of tree (Averrhoa carambola) native to southeast Asia. The tree is also cultivated throughout the subtropical belt, including Florida, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. These are the fruits that are sold in the U.S., as a result of import restrictions due to potential pests that often accompany the fruit.

    Named for the five-pointed star shaped slices it yields when cut horizontally, the pale yellow, juicy flesh with a distinctly tropical orange-pineapple flavor contains a few small, flat seeds. The fruit is nicely crunchy like an apple. The thin, edible skin, is lime green on the tree and ripens to a bright yellow, shiny/waxy sheen.


    Make every drink and dish a “star” with
    starfruit. Photo by Beatriz Chaim | SXC.


    The flesh retains a firmness when ripe, and therein lies a challenge: Starfruit has so much more flavor and sweetness when it is allowed to ripen on the tree. Much of what is available outside Florida, Hawaii and Puerto Rico has been picked green. It just isn’t the same.

    There are two main types of starfruit—sweet and tart—so you may have to ask the produce manager to clarify which type you’re looking at.

  • While both varieties are fine for garnish, most people prefer to eat the sweet variety.
  • Sweet varieties will be golden yellow and have a fragrant aroma.
  • Tart varieties tend to have thinner ribs and are often a more pale yellow color. You may also come across a rare white variety, which is sweet.

    Not only is starfruit attractive; it’s healthful, too. Starfruit is rich in vitamin C antioxidants and low in sugar and acid (though it should not be consumed by people with kidney problems).


    Native to Southeast Asia and India, starfruit was brought back home by sailors and traders in the late 1700s, and became popular with wealthy Europeans. It was brought to Hawaii by Chinese traders in the late 1800s. Yet, it was introduced to mainland America—Florida—only about 75 years ago. Today the state is the largest producer of American-consumed starfruit.

    Find more of our favorite fruits and recipes in our Gourmet Fruit Section.


    Related Food Videos: For more food videos, check out The Nibble's Food Video Collection.

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