Averrhoa bilimbi

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Averrhoa bilimbi
Averrhoa bilimbi dsc03692.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Oxalidales
Family: Oxalidaceae
Genus: Averrhoa
A. bilimbi
Binomial name
Averrhoa bilimbi
  • Averrhoa abtusangulata Stokes
  • Averrhoa obtusangula Stokes

Averrhoa bilimbi (commonly known as bilimbi, cucumber tree, or tree sorrel[2]) is a fruit-bearing tree of the genus Averrhoa, family Oxalidaceae.

It is a close relative of the carambola tree.


Averrhoa bilimbi is a small tropical tree native to Malaysia and Indonesia, reaching up to 15m in height.[3] It is often multitrunked, quickly dividing into ramifications. Bilimbi leaves are alternate, pinnate, measuring approximately 30–60 cm in length. Each leaf contains 11-37 leaflets; ovate to oblong, 2–10 cm long and 1–2 cm wide and cluster at branch extremities.[4] The leaves are quite similar to those of the Otaheite gooseberry. The tree is cauliflorous with 18–68 flowers in panicles that form on the trunk and other branches. The flowers are heterotristylous, borne in a pendulous panicle inflorescence. There flower is fragrant, corolla of 5 petals 10–30 mm long, yellowish green to reddish purple.[5]

The fruit is ellipsoidal, elongated, measuring about 4 – 10 cm and sometimes faintly 5-angled.[6] The skin, smooth to slightly bumpy, thin and waxy turning from light green to yellowish-green when ripe.[4] The flesh is crisp and the juice is sour and extremely acidic and therefore not typically consumed as fresh fruit by itself. Fruit is often preserved and used as a popular flavouring/seasoning and is a key ingredient in many Indonesian dishes such as sambal belimbing wuluh and asam sunti (see Culinary interest).[7]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Possibly originated in Moluccas, Indonesia, the species is now cultivated and found throughout Indonesia, Timor-Leste, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, Myanmar (Burma) and Malaysia. It is also common in other Southeast Asian countries. In India, where it is usually found in gardens, the bilimbi has gone wild in the warmest regions of the country.[8] It is also seen in coastal regions of South India.

Outside of Asia, the tree is cultivated in Zanzibar. In 1793, the bilimbi was introduced to Jamaica from Timor and after several years, was cultivated throughout Central and South America where it is known as mimbro. In Suriname this fruit is known as lange birambi. Introduced to Queensland at the end of the 19th century, it has been grown commercially in the region since that time.[8] In Guyana, it is called Sourie, One finger, Bilimbi and Kamranga.

This is essentially a tropical tree, less resistant to cold than the carambola, growing best in rich and well-drained soil (but also stands limestone and sand). It prefers evenly distributed rainfall throughout the year, but with a 2- to 3-month dry season. Therefore, the species is not found, for example, in the wettest part of Malaysia. In Florida, where it is an occasional curiosity, the tree needs protection from wind and cold.[8]

Culinary interest[edit]

In Indonesia, A. bilimbi, locally known as belimbing wuluh, is often used to give sour or an acidic flavor to food, substituting tamarind or tomato. In the north western province of Aceh, it is preserved by salting and sun-drying to make asam sunti, a kitchen seasoning to make a variety of Acehnese dishes.

In the Philippines, where it is commonly called kamias and ibâ, are commonly found in backyards. The fruits are eaten either raw or dipped in rock salt. It can be either curried or added as a souring agent for common Filipino dishes such as sinigang, pinangat and paksiw. It is being sun-dried for preservation. It is also used to make salad mixed with tomatoes, chopped onions with soy sauce as dressing.

The uncooked bilimbi is prepared as relish and served with rice and beans in Costa Rica.

In the Far East, where the tree originated, it is sometimes added to curry.

In Malaysia, it also is made into a rather sweet jam.

In Kerala and Bhatkal, India, it is used for making pickles and to make fish curry, especially with sardines, while around Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa the fruit is commonly eaten raw with salt and spice. In Guyana and Mauritius, it is made into achars/pickles.

In Maldives where it is known as bilimagu, it is pickled with aromatic spices and eaten with rice and local Garudhiya (fish soup). It is also used in various Maldivian local dishes such as Boakibaa and Mashuni as a souring agent.

In Seychelles, it is often used as an ingredient to give a tangy flavor to many Seychellois creole dishes, especially fish dishes. It is often used in grilled fish and also (almost always) in a shark meat dish, called satini reken. It is also cooked down with onion, tomato, and chili peppers to make a sauce. Sometimes they are cured with salt to be used when they are out of season.

Bilimbi juice (with a pH of about 4.47) is made into a cooling beverage. It can replace mango in making chutney. Additionally, the fruit can be preserved by pickling,[9] which reduces its acidity.

Potential adverse effect[edit]

The fruit contains high levels of oxalate. Acute kidney failure due to tubular necrosis caused by oxalate has been recorded in several people who drank the concentrated juice on continuous days as treatment for high cholesterol.[10]

Other uses[edit]

In Malaysia, very acidic bilimbis are used to clean kris blades.[11]

In the Philippines, it is often used in rural places as an alternative stain remover.[12]

In the region of Addu in Maldives, the flowers of the bilimbi plant were commonly used in the 20th century as a cloth dye.[citation needed]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  2. ^ "Averrhoa bilimbi". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  3. ^ "Averrhoa bilimbi Linn", SpringerReference, Springer-Verlag, 2011, doi:10.1007/springerreference_68116
  4. ^ a b "Averrhoa bilimbi L." Singapore Government, National Parks Flora & Fauna Web.
  5. ^ Ahmed, QamarUddin; Alhassan, AlhassanMuhammad (2016). "Averrhoa bilimbiLinn.: A review of its ethnomedicinal uses, phytochemistry, and pharmacology". Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences. 8 (4): 265–271. doi:10.4103/0975-7406.199342. ISSN 0975-7406. PMC 5314823. PMID 28216948.
  6. ^ "Buy BILIMBI Fruit Tree - Averrhoa bilimbi". www.daleysfruit.com.au. Retrieved 2018-10-25.
  7. ^ Xu, Eren; Wijaya, Christofora; Faridah, Didah (2017). "Characterization of aroma compounds in Indonesian traditional seasoning (asam sunti) made from Averrhoa bilimbi L." Emirates Journal of Food and Agriculture: 1. doi:10.9755/ejfa.2016-11-1577. ISSN 2079-052X.
  8. ^ a b c Morton, J. 1987. Bilimbi. p. 128–129 In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL.
  9. ^ "Achar bilimbi-Bilimbi pickle". ile-maurice.tripod.com.
  10. ^ Jose P P; Bakul G; Unni V N; et al. (2013). "Acute oxalate nephropathy due to Averrhoa bilimbi fruit juice ingestion". Indian J Nephrol. 23 (4): 297–300. doi:10.4103/0971-4065.114481. PMC 3741977. PMID 23960349.
  11. ^ "Averrhoa bilimbi". United World College of South East Asia. Retrieved 16 December 2010.
  12. ^ "Growing Kamias and Its Many Uses". EntrePinoys Atbp. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 16 December 2010.

External links[edit]

Media related to Averrhoa bilimbi at Wikimedia Commons