Perhaps the most decorative fruit in all the Fruit & Spice Park is the starfruit, Averrhoa carambola. The thin-skinned fruit from Asia is oblong with several ribs that radiate out from the centerline. When the fruit is cut in cross section, the ribs form a beautiful star-shaped pattern, giving the fruit its common name of starfruit. When the fruit is young it is a bright green color, but as it nears maturity, the color of the fruit changes to a bright yellow that signals to us its readiness to be picked and eaten!
Once the fruit is picked it no longer gets any sweeter, although it will change color, so to get the sweetest fruit, wait for it to turn completely yellow on the tree before picking it. The entire fruit can be eaten: skin; seeds; core and the juicy, sweet pulp. If you are choosing fruit from the market, choose starfruits that are as free from bruises as possible. If you see some brown spots on the edges, just slice them off with a knife. Since the skin of the starfruit is so thin, the fruit sometimes bruise during transit to the markets. Starfruit can be used in juices, sliced into fruit cups or salads, added to stir fry dishes and cakes or even dehydrated.
This subtropical tree has been grown in Florida for over a century, but here in South Florida only became a small commercial crop recently. The earlier varieties of starfruit produced very tart fruits, and so were most often used as a garnish, or made into jellies or sweetened beverages. Over the years, sweeter varieties were developed and those are what are most commonly seen in markets and available as trees to plant.
Starfruits produce two main crops each year – one in early fall and the other in early winter – so there are two times a year for you to enjoy this wonderful tasty fruit!
Some other fruits you will find around the park this time of year are:
Abiu: Pouteria caimito
Avocado: Persea americana
Canistel: Pouteria campechiana
Coffee: Coffea arabica
Guiana chestnut: Pachira aquatica
Jujube Zizyphus spp.
Mamey Sapote: Pouteria sapota
Sapodilla: Malnikara sapodilla