Kamias / Iba / Belimbing


Kamias or Iba (Averrhoa bilimbi) in Visayan is yet another throwback to childhood backyard snacking. I used to get these firm sour fruit (closely related to balimbing or star fruit, you can see why, right?) from our mature tree out back and eat them with lots of rock salt. On a good day (where there was nothing else to snack on…) I could eat 8-10 large fruit…you can tell I really liked sour and salty things. Seems the Indonesians use the fruit in a medicinal manner to induce profuse sweating…yup, I can see that working well. At any rate, Karen has a great post on this fruit and you can hop from there to another good post on kamias on The Scent of Green Bananas… so since there is so much written on it, I won’t dwell… However, I will extol the virtues of eating this fruit raw with some salt, it’s probably wicked enough to clear your mouth of 70% of the bacteria that normally resides there… kamias also makes a brilliant sinigang (up next) and oddly, some pretty good candy or preserves, I am told. When in season, it is available in droves and some folks like to dry them so that they can use them to flavor dishes later in the year when they are no longer available fresh. Oh, and I forgot, they make a terrific relish or sawsawan chopped up and mixed with bagoong and served with fried fish…delicious!


59 Responses

  1. i used to make dried sweetened kamias -they taste and look somewhat like prunes…they’re good for snacking, and make a nice addition to tropical trail mix, or to muffins, or as a substiture for dates in date-walnut bars. the fresh fruit makes a very refreshing shake, prepared the same way as the plum and grape shakes. getting the right balance of tartness and sweetness is the key, plus lots of ice.

  2. Green fig jam reminds me of preserved camias although the candied camias that I remember had a sharper tang and kept the natural shape and colour of the fresh fruit intact. Soaking the fruits that have been pricked with needle in a lime solution (apog) ensures that they do not disintigrate when cooked. Restoring the green colour though was already quite an arcane process even in the remote time of my youth. A copper coin is tossed into the wood stove and retrieved a few days later and dropped into the cooking syrup. It was in my chemistry class that I found out that what mother was doing was producing a miniscule about of verdigris, the stuff on bronze that we admire as patina, and highly toxic. We did not know that and what we did not know did not hurt and I guess what did not kill made us stronger. But the sweet camias was delicious and lovely to look at.

  3. Hi mr. market man. I also like sour-salty foods. And we also had a kamias tree. I remember sisters and I eating raw kamias with salt to pass a lazy afternoon. My lola naman would cook kamias with fresh alamang instead of the fermented bagoong for sawsawan. Yummy! I also like burong kamias but i rarely find this nowadays.

  4. Hi MM. My mom used to make candied kamias that almost tasted like dates. Friends and family would be so surprised to learn that what they were eating was actually kamias. It was so good but making it involved a long & tedious process so my mom doesn’t do it anymore.

  5. Hi MM, mouth is drooling. I remember my dad (may he rest in peace) growing kamias in our back yard. Brings back memories. Thanks.

  6. Hey MM…you finally got me to write. Instead of suka, my family from Pampanga would boil the kamias, mash it, add a little water and bagoong. It’s perfect with fried or inihaw na hito…yum. Kamias makes my mouth pucker up because of it’s tartness. Can’t think of any other way of eating raw kamias except with rock salt.

  7. Kamias and macopa were some of the fruits grown in my great-grandmother’s place. When we were kids, we would seldom eat either, preferring to use them instead as missiles in fruit fights.It’s not so nice getting hit by a ripe kamias or a worm filled macopa, so pardon my aversion to both fruits.We also had a chico tree, but that sandy tasting fruit was too solid, and getting hit by these would be too painful, so those were off limits. Kamias really does bring back fond memories, but not of the epicurean kind.Hehe.

  8. WE had one tree in my backyard when I was young. I’m not sure if its still there. I miss it. I would dip it with salt of bagoong.

  9. Millet, how do you make dried sweetened kamias? I saw tons by the roadside once being dried but I had no idea how, when, why for what they were then used… Apicio, any idea if burying copper pennies near the roots of hydrangeas really changes their color??? Masc, sauteeing the kamias with bagoong or alamang is a nice way to soften it a bit and cut the sourness…yes, a fantastic combination. Sylvia, do you still have the tedious recipe? Care to share? Jean, you’re welcome! Beeh, we used to eat it raw or somewhat sauteed but boiling it and mashing it as a condiment for fried hito sounds delicious! Jul, funny you should mention the fruit fights…I think there are millions of folks out there who once did exactly that… when the fruit are soft, almost yellow and incredibly juicy they are the perfect weapon… Noemi, I hope it is still there!

  10. I had my first camias shake at Cafe Bola, and I enjoyed how the tart fruit mixed with the honey or sugar mixture, plus the bits of fiber from the fruit. I’ve seen it on other menus now and have added it to my favorite fruit juices. I don’t know if any other country has as many tart fruits that make great juices (green mango, calamansi, etc).

  11. I wonder what is the correct spelling for “kamias”. “Balimbing” is another kind of fruit which I have known to be the star fruit. The scientific name is “Averrhoa carambola”.

  12. Ivy, yes, I did try Gaita’s kamias shake at Cafe Bola, it was very good. Ric, Kamias and Iba are the two more common terms for the fruit in the Philippines, “Belimbing” is the Malay/Indonesian word for our kamias. “Balimbing” is the Filipino word for “star fruit” with the scientific name as you mention it. So actually, our use of “Balimbing” (and its other connotation a “turncoat”) is the one that seems a bit odd in the regional scheme of things…

  13. Marketman you have to try adding kamias to beef. . . we have a dish in ilocos similar to sinigang (is called sinanglaw i think) with small quite thin slices of beef sauteed in ginger and onion then simmered in broth with kamias and patis. . .

  14. Wilson, that sounds good. Maybe the acidity of the kamias helps soften the beef? Or maybe it’s kinda like adding lemon or kalamansi to bistek tagalog?

  15. funny that there is no kinilaw that uses kamias? or am i just missing out on something? MM, making the kamias “prunes” is a tedious process, but apicio is right – you start by pricking each fruit all over with a needle, and then rolling it with a rolling pin. that’s to get most of the juices out. then you sun-dry them in one layer, and press out some more of the juices. this is guaranteed to bleach your aluminum cookie sheets, so that to this day, i have pans with pale kamias shapes all over the surface. two days of drying is usually enough. you want then still moist and not all wrinkly-dry.then you make a simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water), boil down till a bit thickened, add the kamias and boil for about three minutes. leave the fruit overnight in the syrup. the next day, drain the fruit (you can use the syrup again for another batch of kamias) and dry in a single layer in the sun or in the oven over very low heat. i usually packed these in jars with a bit of the syrup. when we had too many of these, i would chop up some and add to plain vanilla muffins, carrot cake or use in place of dates for pecan- or walnut-date bars.

  16. Well, “belimbing” in Indonesia refers to two types of fruit – kamias and the starfruit. In order to specify the “kamias” type, the complete name is belimbing wuluh. Apparently it’s a favored souring agent in Javanese cuisine, but alas, these are getting rare nowadays in Java.

  17. i am planning to make my research about the kamias fruit because i love eating kamias in our backyard when i was still young :)

  18. Mature fruit may be picked, waashed with boiled water, air-dried, packed in a jar with seasalt added.Chilli optional. Keep in fridge for a fortnight. Use as a relish for fish.Or a smidgin mixed with boiled rice…yum!!

  19. Hi everyone! I’m Carol Veneracion from Bulacan Sweets and Delicacies Center. We sell candied fruits which includes Camias. We make our own candied fruits which are made from real fruit pieces. Our candied fruits also include santol, langka, guava, papaya and pineapple. We use the traditional method of candy making of Bulacan. You can visit us at our main branch in Retiro or our other outlets located in Tropical Hut, QC, SM North Edsa, SM Las Pinas and Landmark. If you have any inquiries, you can email me at mclvene@yahoo.com or call me at 4117599.

  20. Thanks to everyone I now have the idea on what to do with all of this camias that we have in our backyard thank you and god bless

  21. I live in Hawaii and I’d like to know where I can buy ‘apog’ lime to be used in making candied balimbing.

    Question: what is the source of apog. I understand it comes from charred (burnt, like charcoal )sea shells or oyster shells, ground to a fine powdery consistency.

    pls advise via email.

  22. i was just wondering if kamias leaves can be used for beverage…someone told my mother that it is good for diabetes…is that ‘someone’ making sense?

  23. gerard, sorry, I do not know if the leaves can be used to infuse a drink. Roger O, yes, apo or Lye I think in English is from passing water through ashes, if I am not mistaken, you can buy it at wet markets…

  24. hello. i have a question! is there already a tree that bears sweet kamias? and how is this done? :) thanks you

  25. Hi, I just want to know if the Kamias fruit has any element in it which can be used as a tenderizer for such foods like meat. Also, does it remove or lessen the sometimes unpleasant odor that generally comes with raw meat? Thanks! I really need the answers. I’m an Advertising student and we need to come up with a unique product and I chose vinegar made from Kamias. Thanks!

  26. has anyone here used kamias as a tooth whitener? or observed if it has any whitening effect on the teeth?

  27. aena, actually, i’m having an experiment if kamias can be a teeth whitener,,ahmm… if it is successful, i will say it to you,,,

  28. well if it is then pls. read.

    Star Fruit Can Kill Goes by another name….carambola

    We were advised to have a few servings of fruits a day in order to reap the benefits of fruits right? But obviously this is one big no-no fruit to be excluded from your fruity feast!

    In Shenzen, more than 10 people who consumes the star fruit had died. And now a 66-year-old, Malaysian who has been suffering from kidney ailment fell into coma after eating the start fruits. Yes, all it takes is one fruit or 100ml of its juice and the ordinarily harmless star fruit transforms poison in a matter of hours for kidney patients. So does this mean, people without kidney problems should be fine with star fruit! My take: Not at all! Prevention is better right?

    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.

    The symptoms of star fruit poisoning include:
    ~Numbness and weakness
    ~Feeling confused
    ~Epileptic fist
    The risk of death is high if you are having kidney ailments! But healthy individuals should beware of this fruit’s potential toxin too. It could also cripple your vitality if you are not lucky. So don’t take it for granted. It’s better to avoid them. Please pass this news to others.

    This fruit can end your life!

  29. concern, it is similar to balimbing. As for starfruit, it would be best if your claims of its toxicity were substantiated from credible sources. Thousands if not millions of folks eat starfruit, balimbing and kamias and have done so for many, many centuries. So news that it was deadly would have made quite a splash. As for it being bad for some people some of the time, the same could be said for peanuts (that can kill those who are allergic to them), or even the fat in pork…

  30. Has anyone ever heard of casuela? I lived in Laguna for a few years and one of the dishes often cooked at the house was casuela. It is like sinigang and tilapia was always the fish used to make it. Ang sarap-sarap!!

  31. I lived in Manila when I was 5 and remember climbing up on the wall around our house to pick kamias fresh out of the tree to eat. I would love to know how to get them living in Iowa. Please let me know

  32. Kamias is the fruit. I love kamias. For sinigang – meat or sea foods, Pickled kamias with fried or broiled fish or for dilis or even tuyo. When I was young in the province of Pampanga they grow everywhere. In fact we have a kamias tree in our backyard. Where can I buy a camias tree? – I live in California.

  33. can somebody tell me how to make a sweet taste preserved for star fruit or balimbing?thanks



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