From Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
by Noris Ledesma, Curator of Tropical fruit
Carambola: A Star(Fruit) on the Wall
As published in the Miami Herald
If you have a modest yard with little space, but want fruit trees,
the solution could be as elegant and simple as a star fruit espalier.
What is an espalier you may ask? Well, simply think about a grape
vineyard and you are home. This system will provide a novel use of this
dooryard plant and serves as an effective design component in your
yard. It can even cover up some unsightly or undesirable section of
your home garden.
The star fruit (Averrhoa carambola)
is an attractive alternative for planting in your own back yard. It is
definitely one of the most versatile tropical fruit. The star fruit or
carambola is a beautiful tree, with a most curious fruit. Slices cut in
cross-section have the form of a star, which of course lends the name
to the fruit. It was introduced into Florida over 100 years ago
from Southeast Asia and as fall nears, its trees hang heavy with golden
fruit. The fruit naturally fall to the ground when fully ripe but
should be picked from the tree as they turn yellow to avoid bruising.
Ripe star fruit are eaten out-of-hand, sliced and served in salads, or
used as garnish on avocado or seafood. They are also served
cooked in tarts and curries. A relish is made of chopped unripe fruits
combined with celery, vinegar and spices and a refreshing juice is
served on sultry South Florida evenings. In Hawaii, the juice of sour
varieties is mixed with gelatin, sugar and boiling water to make
What to grow:
In Florida, star fruit can be found through much of the year, but the
main crop matures from late summer to winter depending of the cultivar.
We recommend the cultivar ‘B10' which is a small tree with sweet
and resilient fruit.
The production is excellent and the fruit
store well, with a deep orange skin color. There are several other
varieties available in local nurseries, including ‘Arkin’,
‘Golden Star’ and ‘Fwang Tung’. All will serve
well as an espalier.
Building the support:
There are a variety of easy ways to create an espalier frame. You can
work with an existing trellis, though building one specifically for the
plant ensures that it can provide adequate support for branches loaded
with fruit. If you plan on placing your frame near a wall, at least
three feet should be allowed to allow for painting or making repairs
without disturbing the plants.
You can create a basic
espalier using wood, iron or most any type post placed at ten foot
intervals. The design can be straight or in an arc and should be
from 5 to 7 feet tall. Preferable there should be three wires spaced
equally apart up the height of the post. The wires should be tight and
of sufficient thickness to withstand years of exposure to the elements.
Loop the ends so you don't scratch yourself or ruin your shirt every
time you walk by. A support wire on the end posts may also be
advantageous to further secure the structure.
Plant the star fruit trees every four feet. Keep in mind that for the
optimal fruiting the star fruit will need full sun. Partial shade will
reduce fruiting, but improve the overall color and appearance of the
plants. Fertilization is best done in three applications per year
(Mar-June-Aug) with an 8-3-9 or other fruit tree formulation. Star
fruit trees can tolerate freezing temperatures for short periods, and
benefit from the use of mulches and regular irrigation.
Training the espalier:
Allow the newly planted tree to develop a central leader that grows up
to the top wire. The leader should be tipped at this point and lateral
branches allowed to develop from this central axis along the horizontal
wires. This shape of a central leader and lateral branches should be
maintained throughout the life of the espalier. Severe pruning should
be done after harvest of the crops, which are concentrated in the fall
and winter. This pruning will remove the small shoots and branches,
leaving only the major limbs that are trained along the horizontal
wires. Blooming will occur on the short shoots of the regrowth. A light
summer pruning may also be needed to maintain control and appearance of
This recipe can be served as a compliment to your Thanksgiving feast.
Carambola Avocado Salad
2 start fruit (sliced)
Torn lettuce leaves
2 tomatoes (sliced)
½ onions (chopped)
1 avocado (sliced)
a bed of lettuce on each salad plate. Layer the remaining ingredients
in the order listed. Repeat until all ingredients have been used. Add
the dressing of your choice.
(makes about 5 cups)
4 ripe carambolas
2 1/3 cups orange juice
2 cups sugar
1 12-ounce bag cranberries (fresh or frozen)
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
2 allspice leaves (or several allspice seeds in a cheesecloth bag)
1 small cinnamon stick
Agar or Arrowroot to thicken
ends of carambola. Set one aside. Slice the remaining three carambolas
into ½ inch crosswise slices, remove seeds and dice. Combine
orange juice, agar agar and sugar in a heavy large saucepan. Bring to a
boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes
stirring occasionally. Add carambolas, cranberries, allspice, cinnamon
stick and ginger and cook until berries begin to pop, stirring
occasionally, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool, pour into
serving dish. Peel away any brownish skin from the remaining carambola
and slice into ¼ inch crosswise slices. Arrange in a decorative
pattern on top of sauce. Refrigerate. Serve either cold or at room
temperature. Remove some of the liquid off the top if necessary. It is
also delicious added to seltzer water as a spritzer or to white
Cabernet sauvignon wine as an easy tropical sangria. It can also be
served over pound cake.
Back to Carambola Page