Article from the Tropical Fruit News magazine of the Miami Rare Fruit Council International
by Gene Joyner

The Carambola

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 year.

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.

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.

There is 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 it.

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 products.

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.

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Joyner, Gene. "The Carambola." Tropical Fruit News, Miami Rare Fruit Council. May. 1995. Vol. 29. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.

Published 21 Apr. 2017 LR
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