Bilimbi the useful and healthy fruit


Averrhoa bilimbi commonly known as bilimbi, cucumber tree is a fruit bearing tree of genus Averrhoa, family Oxalidaceae. It is a close relative of carambola tree. The plant is native to Southeast Asia but now found growing throughout the tropics. It is widely cultivated throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Maldives, India and Central and South America. The fruit is popular by different names in different languages. Some of the popular common names of the plant are Bilimbi, Bilimbi-tree, Cucumber-tree, Tree-sorrel, Bimbling plum, Pickle Fruit, cucumber tree, Belimbing, asam and pickle. The plant is commonly used as an herbal plant for treatment. The leaves, flowers and fruit are part of the plant that is often used. The leaves are used to treat abdominal pain, mumps (parotitis), and rheumatism. Flowers for treating cough, mouth sores (stomatitis). Bilimbi fruit is often used to treat whooping cough, treat ulcers, prevent diabetes and eliminate acne.

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Plant Description
Bilimbi is a small, attractive, long-lived, perennial tree that grows about 16 to 33 ft. (5-10 m) in height. The plant is widely cultivated and freely escaping along rivers and in secondary vegetation. It grows on a wide range of soil from sandy to limestone soil but does best on rich, well-drained, sandy-loam or clayey loam with plenty of organic matter. Leaves are alternate, densely crowded at the top of branches, imparipinnate; 30–60 cm long, with 11–37 alternate or sub opposite leaflets, ovate or oblong to lanceolate, with obliquely rounded base and acuminate tip, 2–10 cm long by 1.25–1.5 cm wide, downy; medium-green on the upper surface, pale on the underside.

Flower & fruit
Flower is bisexual, pentamerous and 10–20 mm long. Sepals are ovate-lanceolate, 4 mm and pubescent. Petals are reddish purple, 13–18 × 3 mm. Stamens are all fertile. The fruits are small, with cylindrical-elliptical shape. It is around 4-10 cm long and 1.5-3 cm in diameter. The fruit is green when young turning to yellowish green or white when ripe. The fruit is glossy with a thin skin, juicy and very acid. Seeds are flattened disc shaped, small (6 mm) and brown. The fruits are attached to the tree trunk. It’s common to see a bilimbi tree trunk full of fruits during fruiting season. The fruit is crunchy when it’s unripe. When ripe, the fruit falls to the ground. Once harvested, bilimbi fruit has short shelf life, only 5 days. Its skin is also easily bruised just by handling. Because of these reasons, it is difficult to transport these fruits over long distance.

The fruits can be preserved by sun drying. The dried bilimbi fruits are called “asam sunti”, used in many Asian soups and curries. Most of bilimbi fruits taste sour due to high content of oxalic acid, except the “kamias” variety from Philippines which is sweet-sour and can be eaten raw. Since it is considered too sour to be eaten raw, bilimbi fruit is usually used in cuisines, such as salads, fish soups and curries. The high acidity gives refreshing taste to the cuisines. Meanwhile, bilimbi fruit is used in traditional medicine throughout Asia because of its high acidic properties.

Bilimbi tree is found in tropical countries throughout the world. It is supposed to have originated in Indonesia or Malaysia. Bilimbi trees can be commonly found growing in home gardens throughout Southeast Asia. It is also cultivated in many parts of the Caribbean and central and southern America, where it is known as Mimbro. It is also commercially grown in Australia. Bilimbi fruit have been traditionally used for therapeutic purposes, such as for the treatment of diabetes and hypertension. The oldest record of the plant was found in Egypt in the 14th century. The Bilimbi tree grows best in warm, sunny climates, where temperatures are within the range of 23 to 30 degrees Celsius. It prefers well-drained, sandy soil.


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