A Star Is Born: An Introduction To Starfruit

Carambola (better known by its stage name, starfruit), is a delectable tropical fruit that’s enjoyed a recent rise in American culture. Once reserved for international cuisine, its incomparable tartness, crisp, juicy texture and aseptically pleasing shape have struck a cord with chefs around the country. Be prepared for starfruit’s surefire dominance of the tropical food game with this handy guide.

History

Native to the Indo-Pacific area of southeast Asia, starfruit has been a popular snack for locals for hundreds of years. Its name even derives from a sanskrit word meaning “appetizer.” Asian countries have found other uses for the fruit too; it’s often used as a remedy for everything from eczema to hangovers!

Seasonality

Domestic and imported starfruit is readily available throughout the winter months, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find premium produce. Look for Hawaiian and Floridian starfruit from October to April.

Ripeness

Perhaps more so than other tropical fruits, ripeness is tightly linked with the flavor of starfruit. Green, unripe starfruit is extremely tart (more reminiscent of lemons than tropical fruits) and lacks most, if not all, of the sweetness found in ripe starfruit. While a green starfruit will naturally ripen with time, its flavor profile can still be second rate when compared to yellow, ripened starfruit, so you’re better off grabbing it fresh while you can.

  • Pro Tip: Ripe starfruit will give off a clear “fruit” aroma, so give yours a whiff if you’re on the fence!

Selection & Storage

After ripeness, size and feel are the two most important factors in regards to quality fruit. Large, firm starfruit have the best balance between texture and sweetness, plus they have a higher yield. If you want to go the extra mile, a shiny exterior is also a good sign of quality!  Once the fruit has made it into your kitchen, it should last a week or two in your refrigerator.

  • Pro Tip: Accidentally bring home unripe starfruit? Leave it on the counter for a few days before putting it in the fridge to speed up the ripening process.

Preparation

Without the proper care and preparation, your starfruit might not even look like a “star!” For the perfect presentation, follow these steps.

  1. Trim any dark tips on the ridges.
  2. Remove the flat stem.
  3. Slice from top to bottom at your desired thickness.
    • Pro Tip: Turn your starfruit on its side when slicing to maximize grip and get the best “star” shape.
  4. Remove any leftover seeds from you slices and serve.

Culinary Use

Aside from being excellent on their own, starfruit excel when given the spotlight in sweet dishes. Try using fresh slices in your next jam or upside down cake! Savory fans shouldn’t feel left out either; starfruit is a great complimentary flavor to teriyaki chicken!