It's the "star" of any menu, the centerpiece of any plate, and it's unique to Florida. Carambola, commonly known as the "starfruit" because of its attractive shape when sliced, will dress up the taste and visual appeal of any dish or setting.
Although carambolas entered the American market several years ago, the recent popularity of Florida cuisine has brought the fruit into the sunshine.
The tropical carambola is golden yellow, with a touch of brown along the edges when ripe. Oblong and up to 6 inches long, the fruit has five fin-like edges, which yield distinctive star-shaped slices. The skin is thin and slick, while the flesh is juicy, crisp, and yellow to orange in color. Since the fruit is entirely edible, it doesn't require a lot of labor in preparation, making it economical and versatile to use.
Exceptionally attractive as a garnish on a plate or in a drink, carambolas can also be enjoyed in fruit salads, baked in desserts, or cooked with meats and vegetables. It adds flavor to stir-fried entrees, puddings, tarts, stews and curries. (When used for a salad bar, carambolas should be soaked in orange juice to prevent browning over time).The fruit also can be eaten out of hand, like an apple, but there is no messy core or seeds to dispose of. Carambola juice is used to make Florida fruit-based wines, and mixed with gelatin or sherbet.
There are many varieties of carambolas available, including Arkin, Thai Knight, Maha, and Youghans. Florida accounts for all domestic production of carambolas, since the fruit is not allowed into the U. S. from other growing areas because of pest restrictions.
Carambolas are shipped in 7-pound flats (16, 20, 26 and 30 counts), 20-pound suitcases (60, 70 and 98 counts), and 22-pound, single layer cartons. Allow to ripen at room temperature until the carambola is golden-yellow, without any green tinges.
As with many fruits, carambolas are susceptible to chilling injury, so they should be stored at 40 degrees or above.
The Star Shrimp recipe highlights both the visual appeal and flavor of carambolas, while Carambola Upside-Down Cake offers a new twist on an old favorite.