I never gave too much thought to starfruit, or carambola, as it is called elsewhere outside English speaking countries in the western world. I only got drawn to it after a trip Steven and I took to Brazil together several years ago. On a visit to the State of Espirito Santo our friend and host surprised us every morning with delicious freshly made unusual tropical fruit juices. Some unusual even to me because though I am from Brazil, food culture varies widely from region to region, just like in the U. S. Some fruits produced in the northern states never reach the south where I grew up. One of these our friend, Luiz, used to make the morning juice: carambola!
Steven was ecstatic when he saw the huge bag of starfruit being triturated in the blender that first morning. At the time we were living in NYC. A single piece of “exotic” carambola at our favorite gourmet shop, Balducci’s, probably cost 5 bucks. And there was our friend with at least two dozen, happily and somewhat mundanely making them all into juice! It was fun thinking we were drinking a pitcher of fruit juice that would probably cost over a hundred dollars back home. What a glamorous life!
I think that for a fruit to be delicious, it doesn’t necessarily have to come in bold flavors. And this is certainly the case with starfruit. It has a waxy skin with a crunchy texture. Steven believes it has an apple-like texture with a totally different flavor. That flavor is mild: faintly light, juicy, sweet and tart, subtly redolent of watermelon, passion fruit, apple, grape, pineapple and pear, individually or all combined. It’s great to eat just as-is, but you can also add it to salads, use it to creatively garnish desserts (think Independence Day), and of course, if you’re in Brazil and/or have a carambola tree in your backyard, or better yet, have a lot of money to burn, juice it!
Carambola originally comes from Southwest Asia and was brought to the Americas over 100 years ago. It has very few calories, and is a good source of potassium. Learn more about it here.
The other day after watching hang-gliders in Fort Funston we went shopping at an Asian supermarket in Daly City, 99 Ranch Market. I found the biggest starfruit I’ve ever seen there. It probably weighed a whole pound! It looked so gorgeous I had to get it. We ate this carambola as a snack while cooking dinner. It tasted exactly like Brazil. I can’t wait to go back for more. Carambola, you truly are a star.