Family: Oxalidaceae | Place of Origin: Sri Lanka, Eastern Islands of Indonesia
Origins and history:
- First cultivated: Southeast Asia, Malaysia
- Cultivated today: Taiwan, Thailand and Mexico
- Economic value: Trees that receive adequate care can yield up to 300 lbs of fruit, and they need to be hand-packed while still pale green for shipping preparation. The US is its largest importer, with large importing destinations being larger cities.
- Physical appearance: Small understory tree, slow-growing. Leaves are compound, soft, pinnate, and on branches alternately arranged around the tree. The leaflets themselves are ovate, come in groups of 5-11, and are nearly but not quite opposite.
- Scent: Sout, citrus-like tart scent with some sweet undertones.
- Distinct or unusual features: The fruit of this plant is star-shaped in cross section, giving it one of its common names. It has a very lush canopy, especially if not pruned. They are typically very easy to cultivate, but must be protected from cold, windy conditions, given their tropical nature.
- Flowers: The flowers are perfect and small. They have distinct red stalks and 5 lilac petals, and appear on the twigs of the tree.
- Fruit: The fruits are oval-shaped, almost football-like, tapering at both ends, and have a distinct star shape in cross section. The star shape is typically five-pointed, with rare cases of additional points.
Uses and preparation
- Parts used: Fruit, leaves, seeds, flowers and wood.
- Food: The entire fruit can be eaten with no preparation, including the skin. They have a tart-to-semisweet taste that makes them very good in tart desserts and sweetened jams. Starfruit is often found used to freshen up salads, as a garnish due to its unique shape, or even having its juice extracted and used as a seasoning similar to that of a lemon or lime. They are frequently used in smoothies. The fruits can also be dried and eaten. They are very versatile, and their flavor lends itself very well to a variety of foods.
- Medicine: Many different parts of the plant are used for medicine in India, China and Brazil to treat many common and uncommon ailments.
- Leaves: A mixture of the fruit and leaves can be used to help relieve vomiting, and leaves themselves are often crushed to resolve topical irritation like itchiness from chicken pox. Leaves are bound on the temples to alleviate headache.
- Seeds: Crushed and ingested to aid in lactation and improve menstrual flow, powdered seeds act as a sedative for cases of colic and asthma.
- Flowers: Ingested for the sake of expelling internal parasites.
- Fruit: Used to halt hemorrhages, helping with hangover symptoms, and as a digestive aid. In some areas, it is recommended as a diuretic for kidney problems, though its effectiveness is up for debate. Due to its high oxalic acid content, precaution is advised for people with existing kidney problems looking to consume starfruit.
- Wood: The wood is white and gains a red tinge with age. Can be used for construction or furnishings with a unique coloration.
- Cleaning: The acid in the juice of the starfruit can be used to clean and polish metal, having properties that eat away rust. This can also be applied to clean rust stains on light fabric.