Balimbing / Carambola / Star Fruit

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Balimbing or “turncoat” or “many faced” is a word that is often used in Philippine politics. In fact, the negative connotation has really taken hold, taking away from the stunning fruit from which the term originated. Balimbing, Star Fruit or Carambola (Averrhoa carambola) is a unique fruit because of its shape with five angles or points and if you slice it a cross-section looks like a star. I actually never ate this fruit growing up, and in the past ten years, I have only really seen it on the edge of glasses with snazzy fruity cocktails in them. I didn’t realize they could be used in jams/preserves, in salads, sautés, etc. I just cut one right this instant to see what these tasted like… these ones tasted like a non-sour kamias or iba. I found it bracing and actually quite refreshing. Good with some rock salt. I read that elsewhere the fruit can get much larger and can have a very pleasant sweet taste…

It would be the perfect fruit for one of those exercises where you bal2stick items in a bag and kids have to figure out what it is. The skin is supple but not smooth, it could be alive or inanimate, its shape is unusual and its wings yield to pressure. I’m not sure how one would really practically use this but I suspect I would like it in a sour shake and maybe sautéed with bagoong or as part of a vegetable dish. Maybe the next time I will add some to fruit salads for added interest due to the shape of the slices. Elizabeth Schneider, in her book Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables, suggests several recipes pairing balimbing with avocado that I have to remember to try when avocados are back in season next year… Do you guys have any other ways to enjoy this fruit? I certainly would like to hear about it…

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38 Responses

  1. Those look like they’re freshly picked! I don’t think I’ve ever eaten them with anything other than rock salt. It’s been years since I’ve eaten them though. Sometimes our local grocery sells them but they look overripe and are bigger than what I’m used to.

  2. these look a bit under-ripe. they could still get a bit sweeter and fatter and yellower within another week on the tree. i like them sliced into stars, chilled and dipped in salt, or whizzed in the blender with some simple syrup and lots of ice. balimbing, kamias and santol ades are the quintessential summer drinks for me.

  3. We had a balimbing tree in our backyard. The ripe ones are yellowish and the “wedges” really plump. After picking and washing them, we’d remove the hard edge on each side of the five wedges by biting them off in one long strip. That out of the way, we’d munch into the sweet and juicy balimbings, absolutely no need for salt or sugar at all!

  4. carol,that’s the way we eat ours too.My aunties used to despair seeing us girls strip the sides with our teeth.Very unladylike daw!

    Now you’ve made me want some and it’s making me very homesick.

  5. its been years since i’ve had these. i was actually craving for some a few weeks back. now you just made me crave some more. we used to eat these with rock salt.

  6. I have not really tried to eat a whole balimbing when I was in the Philippines. However, I was once intrigued by the yellow fleshed balimbing I saw in the supermarket here in Vancouver and bought one. I cut it up in thin slices and used this to decorate my fruit platter, as I’ve seen it done in food mags. Honestly, I don’t know any other way of using this fruit. It does look like a big kamias and probably is as sour, too.

  7. …memories of chilhood! we had this at my grandparents’ backyard and every day after school I (with my cousins) used to climb the tree and picked the fruit and ate them with rock salt… hmmmmm!

  8. You can enjoy balimbing as a fruit shake (no milk, just the fruit, ice and some honey)! First time I tried this was in Kuala Lumpur. It was good, refreshing! And, I was told, it helps control hypertension.

  9. $.50 a kilo! Can someone send me some carambola? LOL. I get them here too for about $2, sometimes $3 a piece. They are the huge, yellow and soft kind. Not the tart, smaller and most of the time underipe or even manibalang (almost ripe)kind that the markets at home offer.
    I do remember eating the edges first as well. Mom, used to make sawsawan with it (kinda like mango salsa) with diced tomatoes, onions, sometimes with bagoong and usually paired with grilled fish.

  10. Eaten plain with rock salt, ripe or semi-ripe. Kinda remember seeing these made into “preserves” and even into smoothies/juice c/o my Lola’s Osterizer.

  11. balimbing trees were fairly common where i grew up. when we were younger, we ate it right off the trees, unwashed, paired with nothing and often while still perched on the branches of the source tree. as more “refined” teenagers, we’d bring a knife and a saucer of rock salt to the tree, harvest the manibalang ones with a pole, trim off the stringy edges of the wings in one long strip, cut into star-shaped cross-sections, and eat them under the tree with the rock salt. but as you can see, we still didn’t wash them.

  12. I too eat it like the others – straight of the tree, as we had a tree that was right outside my bedroom window. I would use that tree as bridge to get the roof of our house, as there were more fruits on the tree branches on top of the roof. My mom would find out I was on the roof by the sound I made on the galvanized iron sheets, as i would run on our roof.

    My titas would admonish me that I would not have “legs na pang beauty queen” daw beacuse of the scratches/gasgas that I would get as either as I was climbing down from the tree or from the edges of the roof.

    I had numerous tetanus shots because of my kapilyahan. =)

    And as young as I was then I was for “equal rights” – I never agreed that only boys could and would be allowed to climb trees. And to prove this I would climb higher, and get more fruits than my male playmates.

    *sigh* to be a kid again

  13. I like the ones that are bigger and riper, we used to have a tree in our backyard in Batangas years ago. My grandma usually make jams and juice out of it, incorporate it in fresh salads, or dry them unripe like Kamias and cook sinigang or sinaing, though my grandma calls it differently and I can’t really remember what it was. Or it can be paired with bagoong like the pajo (looks like small mangoes in abundance at Batangas) and eat it with grilled or fried fish, like the Samaral you got.

    I only tried to use it in salad,but when its already yellowish. Just cut it up in stars sprinkle with a little lemon & little of sweetened syrup with other fruits and chill. Looks nice in your table especially if you used lots of fruits, nice color.

  14. We have a balimbing tree at our backyard (though it stopped bearing fruit for some years now. I like it when it’s already ripe and yellowish. The flesh is very soft and sweet. And yup, it pairs well with rock salt.

  15. I love your foto of the balimbings – so freshly green, I can almost feel myself puckering at the thought of the sourness of the fruit.
    Here in Sweden, these are very exotic and very expensive indulgences imported from Malaysia. It’s called Star Fruit because of the shape when sliced across. The Malaysian version is usually huge and yellowish, still slightly crunchy with only a hint of sourness. Sometimes, i find that it doesn’t have much taste. It is best served as a decorative part of a dessert, by dipping 2 edges or points of a sliced fruit in melted dark chocolate.

  16. back in Maui i used to have a neighbor, a single grandma who would dry all her fruits when she had too many and one was the star fruit. i like chomping on it fresh with juices drip..y..drip…… but what a revelation eating it dried!

  17. I remember eating these starfruits when I was a kid. We had one or two trees then and each tree would bear so many fruits. Some fruits would just fall off and rot on the ground because we couldn’t eat all of them. The picture you have MM, if I recall correctly, is not ripe to eat yet so they must still be a bit sour. We preferred them a little more ripe but not yellow yet. We would just use our teeth to rip off the ribs on the “star tips”, dip in coarse salt and eat them.

  18. Oooh, my mouth waters just by looking at the pics! Then my mind takes me back to when I was 8, using panungkits to get some Balimbing from our neighbor’s tree (with permission, of course). =) I especially liked eating them sliced out into stars with rock salt. Di pa uso ang iodized salt noon. =)

    Anyway…

    I don’t know if you’ve googled for recipes that make use of Balimbing, but in case you haven’t, here’s something I found which features Balimbing with Rice, and one as an ingredient in bread:

    https://www.nikibone.com/recipe/fruit/starfruit.html

  19. The star fruits pictured here are so green!! hehe. nice color btw. but the belimbing that i find here in Indonesia is more towards light greenish to yellowish colored flesh and its sweet. when i find the green ones they tend to be very very sour hehe, nice to use as a souring agent for foods. its nice to eat and good for your health too but i sometimes end up with very fibrous ones. maybe i didnt cut it correctly? hehe.

  20. I lived in Flordia for 4 years and my neighbor had a star fruit tree. My neighbor gave me some fruit & it was great. I now live in Texas and have been looking for a star fruit tree. Do you know of a website that sells star fruit trees?

  21. they served us balimbing shake at t house in tagaytay. it was so good and refreshing. before then, i never even thought about using it to make shakes.

  22. Hi, just want to share something about Balimbing. I jsut received this email saying that star fruit or balimbing can be fatal for those with kidney problems. At Universiti Malaya Medical Centre consultant nephrologist said that star fruits contain a neurotoxin which is not present in other fruits. It affects the brain and nerves. In healthy persons, the kidneys filter it out. But for those with kidney problems, this potent toxin cannot be removed and will worsen the consumers’ conditions. Read more at https://jennycuevas.blogspot.com.

  23. I WAS TOLD BY A FILIPINO FRIEND THAT THIS FRUIT CAN BE
    USED FOR DIABETES. NONE OF THE COMMENTS PRIOR TO MINE
    MENTION THE HEALTH BENEFITS.
    DO ANYONE KNOW ABOUT THIS???

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