The star apple is an excellent ingredient for desserts
THE STAR apple, found in colours ranging from white to purple, resembles an apple and has a star-shaped core.
The fruit is common throughout the sub-tropical regions of India (Hindi - jambrool; Telugu - gulabijami chettu), the Caribbean, the Americas, Africa and South-East Asia. Many believe the fruit is native to Central America, but some botanists doubt it because there are no native Indian names for the fruit.
Pedro de Cieza de Leσn, a young Spanish soldier-historian travelling in the Andes in the 16th century, was among the first to record its presence in the Americas.
Henry Christophe, the self-proclaimed king of Haiti in the 19th century, loved the fruit so much that he always held court in Milot under a star apple tree.
However enticing the fruit looks, do not bite into it. The skin and rind of the star apple make up at least a third of the fruit by weight, and they are inedible because they are full of bitter latex.
A safe and simple way to reach the edible flesh is to chill the fruit, cut it in half, and simply scoop out the flesh. Bolivians eat the edible flesh parboiled.
They emulsify the bitter seeds into a substitute for almond milk.
A typical Caribbean recipe for fruit salad ice-cream uses star apple flesh along with coconut water, mango, pineapple and citrus fruit. "Matrimony" is a Jamaican fruit salad that combines star apple flesh with sour orange juice.
The names of Caribbean star apple dishes only get weirder. "Strawberries and Cream" for a Jamaican is actually star apple flesh mixed with orange juice, sugar, sherry and spiced with nutmeg.
A 100 Gm of edible star apple flesh contains nearly 70 calories, with nearly 15 Gm of carbohydrate, and less than 2 Gm of protein that is nevertheless rich in the amino acids methionine, tryptophan and lysine. The fruit flesh contains moderate amounts of fibre and appreciable amounts of calcium, phosphorous, iron, beta carotene and Vitamin C.
The seeds are rich in lucumin, a cyanogenic glycoside. Decoction made from powdered seeds is a traditional South American all-purpose tonic, fever cure and a diuretic to increase urine volume.
The ripe fruit is a traditional cure for laryngitis and pneumonia. The tannin-rich astringent bark is a folk remedy for diarrhoea, dysentery, piles and some sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhoea.
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