In Summary
  • It has a lengthy life, evergreen and is widely cultivated in gardens and fields. It is sensitive to cold climate but tolerates evenly distributed rainfall.
  • It matures about 50 to 60 days after flowering. It can be propagated through seeds. Seedling trees will fruit in five to six years while well-pruned 10-year-old trees can easily produce about 45kg of fruit per season.
  • The bilimbi fruit turns bright green when ripe and falls to the ground. Its outer skin is thin, soft and tender and the seeds are flat, wide, smooth and brown.
  • To reduce acidity, the fruit is soaked in water overnight, or soaked in salted water for a shorter period. Bilimbi replaces mango in making chutney.

Our soils produce many plant species that are known to be useful but remain unexplored and underutilised. One of these plants is the bilimbi (Averrhoa bilimbi L.), a tropical fruit.

It has a lengthy life, evergreen and is widely cultivated in gardens and fields. It is sensitive to cold climate but tolerates evenly distributed rainfall.

However, for it to grow well, there should be two to three months of dry season. The tree grows slowly in shady or semi-shady situations.

Bilimbi needs full sunshine, grows well in rich, moist and well-drained soils. However, the most suitable soils for its growth should be sandy.

The tree can grow to 15 meters high but is usually kept shorter for easy harvesting. Heavy pruning can suppress flowering.

It matures about 50 to 60 days after flowering. It can be propagated through seeds. Seedling trees will fruit in five to six years while well-pruned 10-year-old trees can easily produce about 45kg of fruit per season.

The fruits are picked either individually or in clusters. Bilimbi has a very short shelf-life of up to four to five days when stored in the open. But this can be lengthened if the fruit is chilled or frozen.

Bilimbi plant has not received much horticultural attention, though it is widely cultivated at the Coast. Its trunk is short and divides into a number of branches.

The bilimbi fruit turns bright green when ripe and falls to the ground. Its outer skin is thin, soft and tender and the seeds are flat, wide, smooth and brown.

It is juicy and extremely acidic due to its high oxalic acid content, which is high in the green fruit but decreases in ripe ones.

The oxalic acid content ranges from 10.5 to 14.7mg/g in green fruit and from 8.45 to 10.8mg/g in ripe fruit.

The bilimbi fruit is mainly composed of the pulp, about 86 per cent of the total fruit weight. The fruits contain proteins, lipids, fibre, ash, carbohydrates, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.

USES OF THE PLANT

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