Characteristics of The Tropical Bilimbi Fruit – From Wild Southeast Asia To Commercially Grown

Averrhoa bilimbi (commonly known as bilimbi, cucumber tree, or tree sorrel) is a fruit-bearing tree of the genus Averrhoa, family Oxalidaceae. It is a close relative of the carambola.

Names in different countries

The tree and fruit are known by different names in different languages. They should not be confused with the carambola, which also shares some of the same names despite being very different fruits. For example, bilimbi is called balimbing in Indonesia, but balimbing in the Philippines actually refers to carambola and not bilimbi (which they call iba in Cebuano and kamias in Tagalog).

Distribution and habitat

Possibly originating in the Moluccas, Indonesia, the species is cultivated or found semi-wild throughout Indonesia, The Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar (Burma), and Malaysia. It is 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.
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. Introduced to Queensland at the end of the 19th century, it has been grown commercially in the region since that time.
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 the 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.

Tree description

The bilimbi tree is long-lived and reaches 5-10 m in height. Its trunk is short and quickly divides up into ramifications. Bilimbi leaves, 3-6 cm long, are alternate, imparipinnate, and cluster at branch extremities. There are around 11 to 37 alternate or subopposite oblong leaflets. The leaves are quite similar to those of the Otaheite gooseberry.

Nutritional value for 100 g of edible portion

  • Moisture 94.2-94.7 g
  • Protein 0.61 g
  • Ash 0.31-0.40 g
  • Fiber 0.6g
  • Phosphorus 11.1 mg
  • Calcium 3.4 mg
  • Iron 1.01 mg
  • Thiamine 0.010 mg
  • Riboflavin 0.026 mg
  • Carotene 0.035 mg
  • Ascorbic Acid 15.5 mg
  • Niacin 0.302 mg

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