Sunday, January 27, 2013

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Starfruit

     The carambola, better known by its common name, starfruit, is originally a native of Southeast Asia, in India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.  Due to increasing consumption, it’s now grown in various other areas with tropical climates, like Central and South America, Africa, Australia, and the Southern U.S.  Its alias is easy to figure out—when the fruit is looked at in cross section, it’s star shaped, although the number of points, or ridges, can range from four to eight.  It has a yellowish or greenish color, and a rather waxy skin.
     In the U.S. its current popularity is attributed to an individual, a retired stockbroker named Morris Arkin, who lived in Coral Gables, Florida.  An amateur horticulturist, he took what was formerly a largely ornamental plant and through selective breeding came up with a fruit that was particularly liked.  His variant was sweeter and handled better, so starting in the mid to late 1970’s the starfruit took off.  Reportedly 98% of those grown in Florida are his developed kind.  Arkin wasn’t just about the fruit, either—he’s also credited with helping to popularize the macadamia nut in the States.
     The starfruit is eaten whole, thin skin and all.  It’s high in potassium, vitamin C, and even antioxidants.  Additionally, it can also be enjoyed as a relish, preserves, or just as a juice.  Alas, there are some negative health aspects to it as well.  The presence of oxalic acid makes it dangerous, or even fatal to those with kidney issues.  Also, similar to grapefruit, it can interfere with some other common drugs, such as anti-cholesterol statin medications.
     Unfortunately, I take a statin drug (my love of foods like cheese takes it toll, I suppose), meaning I had to be careful.  As such, I only had a small portion of the starfruit.  I thought it was good—it was juicy and citrusy, and had a pleasing mildly sweet taste.  Its texture was interesting, too, kind of reminiscent of kiwi or an apple.  Therefore, I certainly recommend it to those that can safely consume it, and hopefully I’ll be able to partake sometime in the future.  Its availability may be limited in some areas, but I was able to find in my local supermarket, which has a decent but non-spectacular selection.

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