Monday, November 7, 2011

A Sour Post

Averrhoa bilimbi with common name in English as tree cucumber or tree sorrel and "kamyas" or "kalamyas"  in Pilipino is a very important plant in this country. It is an  ingredient in many of our food preparation. We are fond of slightly sour dishes and stews, so its sour fruits are very handy for this purpose, especially in our dish called 'sinigang', a slightly sour stew of either port, beef, chicken, fish or shrimp. Ripe fruits are also made into jellies, jams or pickles. Most houses in the provinces have at least one kamyas tree in their backyard. 

With the many Filipinos scattered around the globe, lack of fresh kamyas can be easily remedied by bringing with them the dried fruits. It is also now processed into instant powders for easy and accessible use.

I am amazed that a lot of countries aside from Southeast Asia, but even South America, and even France use this fruit in recipes.  It is also traditionally used here for medicinal purposes, as well as in India and Indonesia. Both fruits and leaves are traditionally used for many ailments. Researches also revealed that it has potential for hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia, meaning it can reduce blood glucose and cholesterol. However, i personally know it has a high oxallic acid content, so eating the unripe fruits should be in moderation, or else it will react with the calcium of the teeth enamel. 

Leaf arrangements make it also a nice ornamental plant

The flowers are small which are borne in clusters arising from the trunk and branches. This flowering habit is called cauliflory or cauliflorous. 

The full trunk and even the small mature branches bear fruits as in above photos. Those are located near our house for easy access. 

                                                                Immature fruits

The above fruits can still be allowed to ripen further, however ripe fruits are also green only more juicy and softer. 

Post Script: I was inspired to post this because Francisca of View Thru my Global Lens posted 2 lovely photos of its flowers, only because of her curiosity.


  1. This is super, Andrea. I am posting a link to this post on my blog, too! How fun!

  2. Lovely photos. The 3rd one is my favourite! I think this is the plant that kitchen flavours posted several times. She has a very productive tree.

  3. My mouth is already watering from merely looking at the 'sourish' photos...

  4. Those are so cool! I've never even heard of this fruit let alone seen it. And the way it grows most interesting.

  5. I too never heard of it or saw it. Learned a new fruit!

  6. Initially I used to think that bilimbi was the star fruit! Somehow I have not come across this tree around here. It seems to be common around the southern states though. Interesting pictures!

  7. Francisca - yes it is fun to have adjoining and linking posts. I have these photos maybe 2 months earlier but your post remind me of them.

    One - so you like the flowers more than the fruits. I have some photos with more fruits almost covering the trunk, took it last year but can't find the files.

    Lrong - oh so do you know this tree and fruits too?

    Tina - yes its fruiting habit is really interesting, how lovely if the ripe fruits can be eaten well just like the other fruits.

    Gardenwalk gardentalk - maybe it grows only in tropical climates.

    Kanak - star fruit is Averrhoa carambola, we call it balimbing, while Malaysia call it belimbing. So you see they are cousins, same Genus but different species. Starfruit is much sweeter than this too.

  8. my neighbor keeps bringing me some bilimbi and all i can make is salads and sty fry...any other ideas to use this as a vegetable andrea?

  9. I LOVE learning about native plants, especially medicinal ones and culinary ones. I have a firm belief that there is a cure for every disease and ailment that exists and they can all be found somewhere in nature. I started learning about foraging plants before we decided to leave Virginia, and now I looking at the native plants of my new home. This was a VERY interesting post. Thank you so much!

  10. Very interesting post, Andrea....I have never heard of this plant (unless it has another name here)... So interesting... Thanks for sharing.

  11. I see them in Asian Grocery in the frozen food section, but they didn't come from PI.

  12. What a fascinating tree and quite interesting ornamentally. I think US native redbuds do the same thing with the flowers coming staight out of the bark.

  13. Kitchen Flavours has one. The Secret Garden of 1-Utama also has one. Strangely, I have never seen the flowers nor fruits yet. Neither have I eaten it before but you are right. It is common here and used in many Malay dishes.

  14. Wow, that is so interesting with the flowers and fruits coming right out of the trunk! Thanks for sharing!

  15. Noel - it is not used as a vegetable but as a souring agent. However, if a salad needs some souring like camote tops salad, then you can use small slices of this. Maybe salted eggs with tomatoes and small shreds of this is nice too. It can supplement for the use of green mango in salads.

    Marie - I fully agree with you there. Being in a country with lots of traditional knowledge from old people also helps, that's why some researches from advance countries try to immerse with indigenous people to learn their ways, and then patent the process to their names later, not even honoring the country of origin and the laws of the country. There are some cases documented about these.

    Betsy - maybe you have heard cucumber tree which is the common name in English. I've mentioned it at the beginning.

    Photo Cache - South American countries will easily send these to the US. What country did you see as the exporter?

    Carolyn - yes there are many trees which are cauliflorous, like jackfruit, figs, etc.

    Autumn Belle - you are already very urbanized to escape its presence in rural areas in Malaysia. Maybe you should see it in one of your visits to your old hometown.

    Indie - thank you also for your appreciation and visit.

  16. You have introduced me to something I have never seen before. The way it grows is fascinating. My husband is dietetic. As it can lower blood sugar levels, I am sure this would be a great addition to his diet. I wish I could find some here in Canada.

  17. Very interesting! I have never heard of it, but you described it perfectly. And the photos are superb!

  18. Fascinating that it grows on the trunk like that. I've never heard of it before though I don't think I would like a sour tasting stew.

  19. So interesting...I've never seen a tree fruit like that from the trunk. I grew up in the big city so I guess I really haven't seen many fruiting trees - lol!

  20. Your blog is so informative. I love learning about plants I'm not familiar with and your photographs are beautiful. This is a fruit I've never seen or read of. Thanks, great blog.

    The French Hutch

  21. This post is making me homesick. When I was younger, I used to eat them with a little bit of salt. My mother used to make them with bagoong with chicaron. Hmm, now I am hungry.

    The lakes and the mountains make a perfect pair for great sunset and sunrise shot. Quite an experience for me when I took some in Mono Lake at 5:30 am.

  22. The Sage Butterfly - thank you so much i appreciate your comments and visit.

    Rosie of leavesnbloom - we have quite a number of trees with flowers coming out on the trunks like that. Sour stew is an acquired taste.

    Cat - maybe you don't also visit big botanical gardens which have cauliflorous trees, fig is one.

    The French Hutch - i certainly appreciate your visit, if you want some more interesting and unusual posts, we have lots in the archive. Thank you.

    Ebie - i can imagine that you miss home, many migrants feel like that. But you know what, i don't like eating kamyas, though i've seen kids just eating it the way you did. It is good i have preserved my teeth as nicely as when still young.

  23. Nice photos! Never seen or heard about this tree before though. I generally like sour fruits (with the exception of lemon)

  24. Andrea...thanks for the info on the papaya plant. It was the first time for me so it was a surprise/ a wonder. Now I know better. Thanks once again.

  25. Fantastic post, with interesting information, and photos to see. I've not seen anything like this before.

  26. All are precious, so similar and so different, wonderful light and color, very nice photos.


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