05 October 2013

The Carambola Tree

On the farm where we lived in Costa Rica, we had many kinds of fruit, oranges, mangoes, mandarines, water apples, mora, to name a few. But one fruit in particular, the carambola, makes me homesick for our tropical mountain top life. Carambola, or as it is known stateside, star fruit, grew on a large tree near the entrance to the farm. The trees branches brushed the ground all around,  you needed to push your way through the branches and stand inside the canopy of leaves and branches, in order to find the fruit. In the soft green/gold light under the branches, you would see the carambola fruits hanging from the branches in numbers that were completely hidden from view when looking at the tree from the outside. It was a magical place, quiet and cool, the ground padded with fallen leaves. You could comfortably stand up inside; it would be a great place to meditate, or for a picnic if it weren't for the vicious little biting ants that also appreciated the shelter and cool. Sometimes I would go in there and just stand,( in my ant proof knee high rubber boots...), taking in the beautiful light and the aroma of ripening carambola.

One day while standing in my carambola tree hideaway, I was blessed with a wonderful encounter. I was just getting ready to pick some fruit for juicing, when I heard a rustling sound behind me. Not knowing what might be joining me, (a poisonous snake came to mind...), I stood perfectly still. Soon a bird with big orange feet came into view.
On the mountain, our Tico neighbors don't know the actual name for it, they just call them Pajero Pato, or duck bird. It is more officially known as a Gray Necked Wood Rail. Photo http://naturalencountersbirdingtours.com since all my photos are taken with the bird in the shadows
For many months I had stalked this bird trying to get a good photo of it, but it is shy of people and disappeared into the undergrowth when it saw me coming. I would often see a pair of them down the lane on the farm under the giant mango trees, dabbling in a puddle after the rain, or ranging through the tall grass on the south face of our mountain, but this was the first time I had gotten to see it up close. Really close! The bird seemed totally unaware of my presence and spent several minutes rustling and scratching around for something good to eat. I dared not move anything but my eyes and lamented that I didn't have my camera with me, but it was quite a treat to just to get to observe it so closely. In the shadows under the tree, the curiously constructed bird with its giant orange feet and duck shaped body, looked rather drab, the color of dead leaves and mud. But as it strolled past me and popped out from under the branches of the carambola tree into the sunlight beyond, its gray neck feathers shimmered with a brilliant green and the mud colored feathers at the base of its neck and back glowed golden orange. It was what I like to call a "God Moment", a moment in time that will never occur again, when the Creator of the Universe is made very real to me.

Like mandarines, carambola are a fall and winter crop in Costa Rica. During the time that they were in season we would drink our fill of mandarine/carambola juice with our breakfast in the mornings. It was so fresh and delicious! Here in the states, the carambola is expensive, and sub par, being that they are usually picked and shipped green, so they don't normally develop their wonderful sweet, tanginess. But the other day I was checking out a new Publix grocery store near us and saw that they had some promising looking carambola. They were yellow on the edges and pinky orange near the center, just like they were when we picked them on the farm in Costa Rica. They were also on sale at $1.00 a piece, so I cheerfully grabbed a couple so that I could make a tropical fruit juice for Shabbat breakfast.

So this morning, when we had our Sabbath breakfast out in the Lil' Swiss Miss, (our 1957 Swiss Colony camper), which consisted of a bowl heaped with apples, oranges, plums, grapes, kiwi and bananas, we also had a rich and velvety glass of tropical fruit punch. Oh was it good!

I made the juice by running it through our Greenstar juicer, but it can be done about as well, (maybe a little pulpier), in a good blender. Here is the recipe:

                 Tropical Sunrise Punch

One ripe carambola
Six large mandarine oranges (also known as clementines), or 8 small ones, peeled
One orange, peeled
One very ripe Ataulfo or "champaign" mango (the small golden mango), or 1/2 a very ripe Tommy Atkins,(the large, thick bodied green and red mango), peeled and seeded.
3/4 cup fresh pineapple
0ne carrot

Run through the juicer and serve. If using a blender, blend all until smooth and strain to remove carambola seeds, citrus skins and pineapple and carrot pulp. It can be chilled, but I think the flavor is more pronounced at room temperature. Serves two in goblets, or four in juice glasses.

Sip and enjoy some of the photos I took of the birds that lived with us in Costa Rica!

Keel Billed Toucan on the farm, Sabalito Costa Rica 2009

Wood Nymph Arenal Observatory, La Fortuna Costa Rica 2009
Pair of Gray Necked Wood Rails dabbling in puddle on the farm, Sabalito Costa Rica 2009

Magpie Jay  on the farm in Sabalito Costa Rica 2009
Blue Crested Mot-Mot on the farm, Sabalito Costa Rica 2009
Chestnut Mandible Toucan, Bijagua Costa Rica 2011
Violet Saberwing in flight, Poas Costa Rica 2011

Violet Saberwing at rest, Poas Costa Rica 2011

Pura Vida!


  1. Gorgeous photos and content. I just shared this post with a friend who has a large starfruit tree in her new back yard. She was going to cut it down but I have been trying as hard as I can to be The Lorax and fight for this tree. Your post is lovely and aside from loving Carambola's it will give her a recipe to use the fruit that is apparently abundant. I wonder if you guys live anywhere close to each other? It would be one of those woo-woo moments if you did. You could collect and use the fruit and she could keep that gorgeous tree :). Here's a link to the tree dilema...


    1. I hope you can convince your friend to keep her tree! Trees that produce food are precious, and the Carambola tree is a lovely tree as well. Also thank you for visiting my blog and for the nice comment. Please come by again!


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