Photo submitted by: Laura Hlusko, Mercer County Master Gardener
The reason I've become so intrigued by this fruit stems from its shape as I can say that I haven't found many other fruits with such distinct lines and a slightly leathery feel. It's elicited my curiosity, but until this point, not to the level of opening my wallet.
The starfruit, coming from Averrhoa carambola, is a green to yellow colored fruit with a star shaped cross section in the Oxalidaceae family. It hails from a tropical tree that has a pinkish or purple colored flower that might remind you of lilacs, though not in the same family. This tree grows about 20-30' tall and has extremely sensitive leaves that fold at the slightest touch or change in sunlight. I would highly suggest searching for "starfruit leaves movement" in the Youtube search box to watch Ernesto Sanz' video. So what allows these leaves to quickly move?
Starfruit trees contain a structure called a pulvinus located at the base of their leaf stalks. The pulvinus is an elbow-shaped, engorged organ comprised of vascular tissue (water moving) and parenchyma (an airy type of tissue). Though a gross oversimplification, when a leaf is touched, water moves into the parenchyma and thus allows the leaves to move or droop.
Like our good friend the guava, this fruit is edible in its entirety: seeds, skins and all. I cut my starfruit into a star-shaped cross section and decided to munch on each of its triangular "arms." Unexpectedly, I found this to be a delectable, delicate fruit. It isn't overpowering in flavor and some might find it to be less invigorating than other fruits, but don't listen to that nonsense. I actually found the skin to be quite enjoyable for its plushness, ease of chomping, and lack of increased flossing needed. The flesh is divine! It takes that sweet, watery taste of a melon and couples it with the rich flavoring of a traditional apple, though the plant hosts no breeding between the two species.
By any means, I hope you give the starfruit a chance. If you're the budgeting type and like to get a high ratio between your dollar and weight, this might not be a top priority. Yet, I would challenge that sometimes, the experience itself is worth every penny.
Submitted by: Laura Hlusko, Mercer County Master Gardener