Carambola and Antidesma

Carambola and Antidesma

What a pleasure it is to be confronted with my present dilemma of deciding what I should pick for this month’s What’s In Season?  Late summer at the Fruit & Spice Park presents the visitor with an embarrassment of riches! Just this morning, as I made my usual morning rounds, I encountered Jackfruit, Cinnamon Apple, Cacao, Sapodilla, the last of the Mango, the first of the Avocado, and many others.  This month, I’ve decided to highlight two interesting fruits — one is familiar, the other a bit more obscure.

Averrhoa carambola, commonly known as Carambola or Star Fruit, has become fairly well-known, and is found in most major supermarkets.  Native to Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, it is a small to medium size tree with pretty pinnate leaves and masses of tiny pink flowers. The fruit is juicy, yellow to orange when ripe, and reveals a star shape when cut — hence the name.  Taste can range from tart to slightly sweet and varies greatly by cultivar. It is recommended to grow a grafted variety of good quality. Mature trees are also highly productive…one good tree can feed the entire neighborhood!  We have several varieties here at the park, mostly concentrated in the Asian section.

Antidesma bunius, also known as Antidesma or Bignay is rare here in South Florida, though it has been cultivated since the early 1900s.  This impressive medium tree has a mounding habit and can be breathtaking when in full fruit. The berries are small (1/4-1/2 inch) but are borne on long pendent clusters up to 12 inches long.  The berries ripen irregularly, starting out white, moving through pink to red to purple/black.  You can eat the fruits right out of your hand or juice them, and just like mulberries there’s no way to “sneak” eating them because the purple evidence will be all over your hands and lips!  Another interesting aspect of Antidesma is that, depending on a genetic trait of the taster, it may taste bitter instead of sweet. Our Antidesma trees are located in the South Pacific region near the Macadamia and Mango.

Here’s a very simple recipe that will help you preserve and enjoy a bountiful harvest of Carambola.  Feel free to adjust or change the spices to suit your taste—think chili and cardamom, or a bit more sugar and some cinnamon.  You can also substitute white wine or even prosecco, the variations are endless.

2 cups cubed star fruit

1⁄4 cup sugar

1⁄2 cup dry red wine

1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled gingerroot

1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir well.

Bring to a simmer over medium high heat and cook 25 minutes

Use your stick blender to make it smooth and simmer until thickened.

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