With the parade of red carpet celebrations taking place – the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild awards and upcoming Oscars – the time is ripe to shine the spotlight on star fruit. Also known as carambola, star fruit is a berry ranging in size from two to six inches long, with five ribs along the sides. And when sliced crosswise, a star is born. While believed to have originated in Malaysia or Sri Lanka, star fruit appears widely throughout Southeast Asia, and also performs well in the tropical climates of Florida and Hawaii. Star fruit can be purchased when it’s still green and left in its cello packaging to ripen at room temperature. When the fruit has turned a golden yellow, with brown edges on the ribbing, it’s time to cut in. Just like in Hollywood, signs of a good star include firm, smooth skin with no brown aging spots. After ripening, the fruit will keep for about a week in the refrigerator. To prepare the fruit, wash thoroughly then trim the brown edges off the ribs. (If there are no brown edges, it hasn’t ripened enough). Cut the ends off the top and bottom and discard. Then slice crosswise through the edible skin to reveal beautiful, five-pointed star shapes. Star fruit is a complex character. It smells like a combination of apple and pear. But then the plot thickens. The translucent yellow pulp is juicy, but firm. It tastes like pineapple without the sweetness; an apple with more bite; a mild grapefruit with a kick of lemon. There are two types of star fruit – sweet and sour. The tart fruit is generally smaller with thinner ribs than the sweet version. As with even the most talented of performers, star fruit is enhanced by its supporting players, working well in fruit salad, marinated and grilled or simmered in a sugary syrup. The tart fruit with its sour, lemony flavour works best when used in cooking, while the sweet star has the added benefit of pleasing the palate on its own. At only 40 calories per cup, star fruit is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, low in sugar, sodium and acid, and high in fibre. As good as it is, star fruit should be avoided by those with kidney disease as the oxalic acid it contains can cause severe illness and fatality. Star fruit can also inhibit certain enzymes, affecting various medications including those prescribed for cardiovascular conditions. For individuals taking medications, it’s best to check with a doctor to ensure star fruit is a safe choice. Which goes to show that although stars may look perfect, they still have their flaws. If I had to rate it, I’d give star fruit four out of five stars.
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