Article from the
Tropical Fruit News magazine of the Miami Rare Fruit Council
by Gene Joyner
The carambola, Averrhoa
carambola, is a small evergreen tree native to Malaya and Southeast
Asia. This is one of the most rewarding of tropical fruit fruits for
either the beginner or the experienced tropical fruit grower, since it
thrives on a wide variety of soil types and produces two major crops a
Trees grow to heights of only twenty-five to thirty feet
at maturity, but can easily be kept eight to ten feet tall and still
produce more fruit than a family can use. They also are excellent for
use in containers and many people grow carambolas as a container plant
on porches, patios or similar areas within the landscape. The tiny
attractive light-to-dark pink flowers are produced twice a year,
usually late spring and early fall, and these are followed shortly by
the unusual three to seven inch artificial looking waxy fruit.
color can be orange, yellow, or almost white, and the fruit has five
prominent ribs running the length of the fruit, and when it's cut in
cross sections, you get attractive star shaped pieces. For this reason,
it's often call star fruit/ The fruits vary widely in quality; some
seedlings have very sour inferior fruit, while many named grafted
varieties are sweet and delicious.
Trees should be planted in
well-drained locations, and although they are tolerant of flooding for
brief periods, do not prefer soil which is continuously moist. They
like acid conditions for best fruiting, and when planted in a highly
alkaline soil, often develop micro-nutrient deficiencies which require
treatment with nutritional sprays.
Carambolas are will suited
for light shade of full sun, but have poor salt tolerance and should be
kept well away for direct salt wind. The star fruit is generally
propagated by grafting onto carambola seedlings. Seedlings will bear
fruit, but unusually take tree to five years, and the fruit quality may
be inferior to the parent.
There are very few serious pest
problems associated with carambolas. Some stink bug damage may affect
maturing fruits and in some cases birds or other animals might also
attract fruit, but never become a serious problem.
commercial acreage of carambola planted in South Florida in Homestead
and in Palm Beach County. Increased interest in this fruit for
commercial plantings is justified by the wide acceptance it has in
local markets. There are many varieties of carambolas that are grown
commercially, but the "Arkin" is still the most widely planted.
Varieties for home use include "Maha," "Fwang Tung," "Newcomb," "Maher
Dwarf" and a number of others. The best thing to do before purchasing
carambolas is to taste several varieties to see which one you like
best, then find that particular variety at local nurseries and purchase
If you do your own propagation of fruits, carambolas can be
either budded or veneer grafted, usually during the spring and summer
months when they are in more active growth. Also carambolas can be
rooted from cuttings under certain conditions with root hormone
Once you have a carambola tree in your landscape,
after a few years of production it becomes quite obvious that you are
not going to eat that many fresh carambolas, and the next question is,
what else can they be used for? Fortunately, carambolas are used in a
variety of ways either fresh or processed. They make excellent
garnishes for fruit salads; they can be juiced; they can be made into
jellies, jams, pies and now even carambola wine is becoming available.
Carambolas also make delicious ice creams and can be combined with
other fruits for delicious combinations. Carambola fruit leather is
also excellent as a treat for everyone in the family. Most home
economics departments of local Cooperative Extension Service offices
can provide recipes for using the versatile fruit, and many cookbooks
and recipe books on tropical fruit cooking list uses of carambola that
you might not have thought of.