Beware the Intoxicating Star Fruit

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Ripe star fruit. Darde Gamayo photo.

Ripe star fruit. Darde Gamayo photo.

Not just pretty to look at and delicious to eat, star fruit can be great for you or deadly. Yes! Deadly!

Star fruit also known as carambola is an interestingly versatile fruit.

A cross-section of the star fruit resembles a star—thus its name.

The star fruit has distinctive ridges running down its sides (usually five but can sometimes vary).

The entire fruit is edible. The skin is thin, smooth and feels waxy to the touch.


The fruit turns from green to a light yellow, then to dark yellow when ripe.

The flesh is translucent and light yellow to yellow in color.

Each fruit contains 10 to 12 flat, light brown seeds.

The star fruit’s flavor can range from tart to pleasantly sweet, depending on how ripe it is.

But beware that this beautifully symmetrical fruit contains a neurotoxin that healthy people can filter out through their kidneys, but those who suffer from kidney disease are unable to.


Known as “star fruit intoxication,” symptoms include hiccups, vomiting, numbness, insomnia, decreased strength, confusion and muscle convulsions.

Symptoms can appear in as little as 30 minutes after eating it or up to 14 hours later.

Star fruit intoxication can even cause death in rare cases.

If you experience any of these symptoms after consuming star fruit you should seek immediate medical attention.

On the flip side, it has some amazing benefits for those who are able to eat it.


The star fruit is rich in antioxidants, potassium and vitamin C. It is low in sugar, sodium and acid.

It is also has both antioxidant and antimicrobial benefits.

In some Asian countries, it is believed that eating star fruit enhances the male sex drive.

While it is usually just eaten straight off of the tree, it may also be used in cooking, preserves and juiced.

Throughout the world, many different cultures incorporate this fruit into their cooking.

The fruit turns from green to a light yellow, then to dark yellow when ripe. Darde Gamayo photo.

The fruit turns from green to a light yellow, then to dark yellow when ripe. Darde Gamayo photo.

In parts of Asia, they are stewed in cloves and sugar. In China it is cooked with fish and in Australia it is sometimes cooked as a vegetable or pickled. Jamaicans dry the star fruit and use it in various ways. A favorite way to use it here in the islands is in sherbet.

The star fruit tree grows great here in Hawai‘i at elevations from sea level to about 4,000 feet. It is a fast growing tree that can produce fruit in as little as four to five years.

The next time you see a star fruit, keep in mind that like many other things in life that are pretty to look at or sweet to the taste, it can also be the cause of your untimely demise.

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