BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO
Starfruits, locally known in the Philippines as balimbing, are fruits of the carambola tree which is native to Southeast Asia. These star-shaped delights, hence the name, are known for their distinct shape and deliciously tangy fruits.
It is believed that the first carambola trees were found in Sri Lanka and Indonesia. But now, these trees are grown in other countries such as Malaysia, Philippines, India, some parts of China, Taiwan, and even in some areas in the United States.
The tropical fruit tree blooms several times a year to produce yellow, star-shaped fruits and grows slowly but can reach a height of 20 to 30 feet.
If grown in tropical countries like the Philippines, balimbing can be planted at any time except during the warm season because that’s when they usually produce flowers and fruits. The intense sun could impede the growth of new trees from seedlings.
When planting starfruits, choose a sunny location. Balimbing trees can be planted directly on the ground if an area is spacious enough and has a tropical climate. But if there are space constraints and the weather is colder than the fruit’s requirements, the trees can be planted in a pot so they can be transferred to a greenhouse during the rainy season.
Balimbing trees thrive best in warm temperatures. It is an active grower during the summer when it produces flowers and fruits in abundance. But in tropical regions, the tree will flower and fruit on and off, year-round.
Providing the tree with full sun is necessary for the best flowering and fruit set.
When it comes to soil requirements, balimbing can grow in a variety of soil but its ideal composition is a well-draining, loamy soil that’s rich in organic matter.
The tree should be regularly watered when it’s young. Once established, water only when the soil is dry.
Young fertilizer should be given a 10-10-10 fertilizer every month. Mature trees should be fertilized at the start of the growing period. Compost or manure can also be applied to improve the soil texture.
Health benefits of balimbing
Aside from producing delectable tangy fruits that are used in various snacks like candies, jam, tarts, and more, balimbing also has several health benefits that have been recognized in traditional medicine.
It is known to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties as well as having a pain-relieving capacity. Balimbing also has anthelmintic properties which help get rid of worms.
Traditional medicine shows that boiled balimbing flowers are used to expel worms while the dried fruit or juice is used to treat fever.
Besides its medicinal properties, balimbing also has other health benefits such as being rich in antioxidants that can inhibit the development of harmful free radicals. Antioxidants also work better if mixed with vitamin C, which balimbing is also rich in.
Vitamin C supports the immune system by ridding the body of toxins and limiting the spread of bad bacteria. One medium-sized balimbing has 76 percent of vitamin C, more than half of what people need everyday.
Other benefits include aiding digestion and weight loss, improving the appearance of hair and skin, and decreasing blood pressure.
There are many fruits in the Philippines that, even though they aren’t getting as much attention as they did before, have been used in traditional medicine because of several medicinal properties. One example of this is balimbing, which is easy to grow in tropical countries and has a tasty fruit that can be eaten as is or used in various ways.