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Averrhoa bilimbi

Averrhoa bilimbi

Today's entry was written by Claire:

3Point141@Flickr provided us with this photograph via the BPotD Flickr Pool of the fruit and flowers of Averrhoa bilimbi, a tropical tree belonging to Oxalidaceae (taken in Pinellas Park, Florida). Much appreciated 3Point141!

Oxalidaceae, or the wood sorrels, is a small family of 6 genera and 770 species distributed in temperate to tropical regions. Common to the family, and also visible with the flowers of Averrhoa bilimbi in the photograph, there are five petals and stamens in multiples of five in the whorl.

Averrhoa bilimbi (named after Averroes, a Muslim astronomer and philosopher) is a long-lived tree that produces an edible, refreshing fruit. Some common names of this species are (funnily enough) bilimbi, cucumber tree, and pickle fruit - the latter two attesting to what the fruit resembles. Averrhoa bilimbi is often compared with another popular, cultivated tree in the same genus called Averrhoa carambola, which most people know as starfruit or carambola.

The species likely originated on the Maluku Islands of Indonesia, but varieties are now commonly found throughout southeast Asia and other tropical areas worldwide. It has been cultivated in tropical regions for centuries and has accumulated a swath of local common names: Averrhoa bilimbi nomenclature via Wikipedia.

Averrhoa bilimbi can often reach heights of ten meters or higher. It can be found in gardens for ornamental purposes (as you can see, the flowers are very exotic) but it is typically grown for local production of food. The fruit is quite acidic and cannot always be eaten raw (though it is sometimes a snacking food). Fruits can also be sweet or savoury depending on the cultivated variety. Pickling, cooking, sugaring, currying, and juicing are some ways Averrhoa bilimbi is used in local cuisine.

Ecology resource link (added by Daniel): Frequent BPotD contributor, Eric in S.F., suggested a note regarding a newly-immigrated kudzu-eating bug in the southeast USA. Kudzu (Pueraria lobata), a member of the Fabaceae, is an invasive scourge in southeast USA. One would think that a kudzu-eating insect would be welcome, but it turns out that it also happily feeds on soybean and peanuts (also Fabaceae), causing a potential threat to those industries. Also, residents are concerned that the rather-smelly bugs can cause quite the odour when they congregate in the thousands. Read more via Alabama Cooperative Extension: State's Residents Should Be on Watch for Kudzu Eating Insect.

9 Comments

Nice pic! There was a very large Averrhoa Bilimbi growing in Fairchild Gardens(Miami) back in the 80's not sure if still there since its been a few years and hurricane.

I'd like to report (from the Kerala province on the lower south-west cost of the Indian peninsula) a couple of points about Averrhoa bilimbi (which is common enough here):

1. The tree is hardy, and the fruiting is extremely profuse. Fruits are found in clusters directly attached to the tree stem

2. The individual fruit is mildly ridged (at least the common cultivars found here)

The fruit is very acidic, and is usually pickled in brine.


sb

Here are harvested bilimbi/kamias fruits for sale in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, on the island of Borneo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ericinsf/435436316/

Fascinating how many of the "tropical" fruits bear the flowers/fruits along the trunk and branches - quite decorative.

What is the acid? Is it oxalic?

Nancy - I think it's because there are a LOT more mammals, birds, and non-flying insects in a tropical forest than in a temperate forest. Fruiting lower on the tree and all along woody stems increases seed dispersal by grazing animals.

i do hope pinellas park florida will check in and let us know
if her tree and garden survied the storms and tornados that
came roaring in off the gulf the other night indy 500 for a long time

i really enjoy the comments that come in from around the world

the tree is very nice and did not our ancestors travel the world
and paint and draw how fortunate for us that they had itchy feet

Good point Elizabeth.
I'm very curious about the fate of the tree. I had been trying to contact this Bilimbi tree owner but no luck yet. I'll report when I find some info.
Thanks.

Can anyone tell me if Bilimbi are sold in Canada, in an ethnic store? I love the pickle that we made out of them while growing up in India, we called it Balchao, yummy with dry prawns.

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