A. bilimbi is a small tropical tree native to Indonesia and Malaysia, reaching up to 15m in height. It is often multitrunked, quickly dividing into ramifications. Bilimbi leaves are alternate, pinnate, measuring approximately 30-60cm in length. Each leaf contains 11-37 leaflets; ovate to oblong, 2-10 cm long and 1-2cm wide and cluster at branch extremities. 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. The fruit is ellipsoidal, elongated, measuring about 4 - 10 cm and sometimes faintly 5-angled. The skin, smooth to slightly bumpy, thin and waxy turning from light green to yellowish-green when ripe. 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). A. bilimbi holds great value in complementary medicine (see Medical interest) as evidenced by the substantial amount of research on it. According to traditional Indonesian/Malaysian knowledge, the trunk and branches of tree require exposure to sunlight to initiate flowering/fruiting, which can be assisted by removing leaves from the inner canopy.
Distribution and habitat
Possibly originated in Moluccas, Indonesia, the species is now cultivated and found throughout Indonesia, 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. 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. 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.
In Indonesia, A. bilimbi, locally known as belimbing wuluh, is often used to give sour or acid flavor to food, substituting tamarind or tomato. In the north western provice of Aceh, it is preserved by salting and sun-drying to make asam sunti, a kitchen seasoning to make a variety of Achenese dishes.
In the Philippines, where it is 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-dryed for preservation. It is also used to make salad mixed with tomatoes, chopped onions with soy sauce as dressing.
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 too.
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 used to make a delicious sauce for grilled ,that consists of chopped onion, chopped tomato ,chopped chili and cooked on low heat. It is a must in our local white fish broth " bouyon blan" When in season we also curred them with salt to be used when it is not available.
In the Philippines, the leaves serve as a paste on itches, swelling, rheumatism, mumps or skin eruptions. Elsewhere, they are used for bites of venomous creatures. A leaf infusion is used as an after-birth tonic, while the flower infusion is used for thrush, cold, and cough. Malaysians use fermented or fresh bilimbi leaves to treat venereal diseases. In French Guiana, syrup made from the fruit is used to treat inflammatory conditions. To date there is no scientific evidence to confirm effectiveness for such uses.
In some villages in the Thiruvananthapuram district of India, the fruit of the bilimbi was used in folk medicine to control obesity. This led to further studies on its antihyperlipidemic properties.
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.
- Averrhoa carambola, a closely related tree
- "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved May 16, 2014.
- "Averrhoa bilimbi". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 9 June 2017.
- "Springer Reference", SpringerReference, Springer-Verlag, 2011, doi:10.1007/springerreference_68116
- "Averrhoa bilimbi L." Singapore Government, National Parks Flora & Fauna Web.
- 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.
- "Buy BILIMBI Fruit Tree - Averrhoa bilimbi". www.daleysfruit.com.au. Retrieved 2018-10-25.
- 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.
- Morton, J. 1987. Bilimbi. p. 128–129 In: Fruits of warm climates. Julia F. Morton, Miami, FL.
- "Asam sunti", Wikipedia bahasa Indonesia, ensiklopedia bebas (in Indonesian), 2018-09-18, retrieved 2018-10-20
- Achard bilimbi (Bilimbi pickle)
- Pushparaj, Peter Natesan (2004). Evaluation Of The Anti-Diabetic Properties Of Averrhoa bilimbi in Animals with Experimental Diabetes Mellitus (PDF). National University of Singapore. Retrieved 1 Dec 2010.[permanent dead link]
- Ambili, Savithri; Appian, Subramoniam; Nagarajan, Natesan Shanmugam (2009). "Studies on the Antihyperlipidemic Properties of Averrhoa bilimbi Fruit in Rats". Planta Med. 75 (1): 55–58. doi:10.1055/s-0028-1088361. PMID 19031370.
- Jose P P, Bakul G; Unni V N; Seethaleksmy N V; Mathew A; Rajesh R; Kurien G; Rajesh J; Jayaraj P M; Kishore D S; 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.
- "Averrhoa bilimbi". United World College of South East Asia. Retrieved 16 December 2010.
- "Growing Kamias and Its Many Uses". EntrePinoys Atbp. Retrieved 16 December 2010.