The carambola, Averrhoa carambola, is an easily managed tropical fruit tree that can often push out two full crops of fruit per year without skipping a beat. The two crops usually come between the months of June through February.
Cultivars may be tart or sweet and if you are a commercial grower, you should choose the cultivar you plant based on what your clients will demand. If you are a homeowner, try to taste some of the different cultivars before you select the one you want. For a full list of cultivars and tips on how to care for carambola trees, be sure to read the EDIS document, “Growing Carambola in the Florida Home Landscape”.
Carambolas are also called starfruit due to their unique shape. When cut, the fruit are the shape of a star and a great addition to salads or other dishes as decoration or an accent. The fruit are often eaten out of hand, but will not continue to ripen once picked, so make sure the fruit have begun to color before they are picked. Waiting for the fruit to completely turn yellow on the tree is often too late and will result in off flavors.
The tree can be easily maintained at 8 to 10 feet tall and 14 to 16 feet wide through selective pruning. Pruning should take place after harvest and should not remove more than a third of the tree’s canopy. Encourage lateral branches by leaving them in place and removing vigorous upright shoots that would eventually cause the tree to become too tall to easily pick the fruit. Small dead branches are common with the fruit tree and should be removed as this will help to encourage new growth and flowering.
The carambola is susceptible to wind and salt damage, so they should be planted in protected areas if possible. Make sure the area they are planted also has full sunlight for a large portion of the day. Many commercial growers build wind screens using shade cloth or windbreaks to protect their fruit and get a higher yield. Carambolas can suffer from nutritional deficiencies, especially in the cooler, dryer times of the year. A minor element nutritional program should be in place during the growing season (May through September) to prepare the the carambola to go through the cooler months in good health.
Overall, the carambola is a fantastic tree for backyard growers, and has good potential as a commercial crop, as it can produce large amounts of fruit throughout the year in a very limited space. Cultivars to consider are ‘Arkin’, ‘Fwang Tung’, ‘B-10’, ‘Kary’, and ‘Sri Kembangan’. Be sure to read the EDIS document listed above for a list of different cultivars and their characteristics.