Bilimbing, Bilimbing Asam, Bilimbi, Balimbing, Cucumber Tree, Tree Sorrel
Outside the Workers’ Hostel near the Bus Bay.
REF. NO. ON COLLEGE MAP:
FORM, TRUNK, LEAVES:
Averhhoa Bilimbi can reach 5-10 m. Its short trunk divides and sub-divides into numerous upright branches (the technical term is “ramification”). The 30-60cm pinnate leaves (each comprising as many as 30 leaflets), cluster like feather dusters at the ends of branches.
The small purple flowers emerge directly from the trunk and branches. These fragrant, 5-petalled blooms are replaced by clusters of pale green elliptical fruits with some resemblance to foreshortened cucumbers. These have thin, glossy skin and their juicy flesh, though edible, is very acidic. (In the Philippines, however, there is a sweet variety known as “kamias”.) The fruits may contain a few brown disc-like seeds.
POINTS OF INTEREST (e.g. uses, cultural links etc):
In this region, bilimbing fruits are sometimes added to curry. The juice is used as a substitute for tamarind in Indonesian dishes and can also be made into a cooling drink. The fruit can also be pickled (as it commonly is in Kerala, India) or made into chutney or jam. In Aceh, the sun-dried fruit, known as asam sunti is popular in some dishes. Because of its high acidity bilimbing jam can be added to overripe stewed fruits.
In rural parts of the Philippines and in Maharashtra and Goa, bilimbing fruits are eaten either raw or dipped in rock salt as a snack. It also flavours the common Filipino dish sinigang.
In Malaysia, bilimbing juice (which is high in oxalic acid) is used to clean the traditional kris blade and can be used as a household cleaning substance.
In the Philippines, the leaves are made into a paste to treat itches, swelling, rheumatism and mumps.
Averhhoa Bilimbi – closely related to the Starfruit (averhhoa carambola) - is a domesticated tree, found in home gardens throughout Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and many other south or southeast Asian countries.
In 1793, seedlings were transported from Timor Leste to Jamaica and from there eventually to many parts of the Caribbean and central/southern America, where it is known as “mimbro”. It is also grown commercially in Queensland, Australia.
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