How To Pick The Best Star Fruit At The Grocery Store

Star fruit or carambola may not be super common in the produce section of your local grocery store, but when you're fortunate enough to find it, you might want to grab a few to experience its unique taste and texture. This fruit — which primarily hails from Asia and South America, but also can be found in the U.S. and Australia — is sweet and tart with a watery crunch. Many agree that it has pear-like notes, while some detect flavors of grapes, oranges, apples, and lemon. Star fruit is also a show-stopper for its unique appearance. It lives up to its name with its bright green or yellow slices that are shaped like five-pointed stars. It's also packed with potassium, fiber, and vitamin C. 

The only tricky part of enjoying this fruit is knowing how to find a good one. The primary sign of a ripe star fruit is its color. Similar to bananas, unripe star fruit is green and becomes yellow when it ripens (though it may still have some green tones). If the fruit is sporting a lot of brown spots on the outside, you'll want to give it a pass. As with many other fruits, star fruit shouldn't be too soft — instead, it should be firm when you press your finger on it. Finally, if you're looking for a sweeter star fruit, opt for larger ones. Smaller star fruits have a tendency to be more tart.

What to do (and not do) with unripe star fruit

If none of the star fruits at the store seem to be ripe, don't fret. It's easy to ripen this fruit yourself. Leaving a star fruit out at room temperature will allow it to develop its bright yellow color and juicy texture. If you're super eager to enjoy your star fruit, you can try storing it in a sealed paper bag to quicken the ripening process. Try adding an apple or a banana to the bag, too, as the ethylene gas emitted by these fruits really speed up ripening.

Patience is key with star fruit, as they aren't very pleasant when not fully ripened. While it can be tempting to try one right away, unripe star fruit can have a sour or bitter taste. More importantly, according to Medical News Today, star fruit contains a compound called oxalate, and unripe star fruit contains more than ripe ones. Oxalate is naturally found in many other fruits and vegetables and is not inherently harmful, but consuming too much of it can cause issues that range from vomiting to kidney stones.

How to use star fruit

Star fruit is tasty when eaten on its own or tossed into a fruit salad, but there are lots of other ways to incorporate it into meals and drinks. Firstly, you can juice star fruit for a refreshing beverage. Drink the juice on its own, use it to flavor frostings or baked goods, or add it to cocktails. You can also blend the whole fruit into a smoothie or various frozen cocktails. And don't sleep on saving a few of the slices to use for a fun garnish on your drinks.

For a sweet snack that you can easily take on the go, bake star fruit to turn it into fruit chips. You can also add these chips to salads or use them as a garnish. For a unique spin, you can pickle the fruit and add it to sandwiches or salads, or just eat it solo. For an interesting departure from typical flavors like strawberry or grape, you can also use star fruit to make jam. As for savory dishes, try whipping up seared scallops with carambola sauce, or dice the fruit to mix into a stir-fry. Its bright color and refreshing flavor profile will add complexity to a multitude of dishes.