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Fruit of the heart

By BARBARA GONZALEZ- VENTURA, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 26, 2023 5:00 am

We were having lunch, my cousins and I. I don’t know what brought on the conversation. The macapuno balls that another cousin had brought? What were we talking about that brought me to say that one of my favorite and greatly missed fruits was the balimbing? I loved it when I was a little girl, when my grandmother would buy it whenever she saw some in the market. 

Maybe we were talking about the last out-of-country trip my husband and I took to Singapore. I saw balimbing in the supermarket. I couldn’t resist. I bought it and ate it almost all by myself. My husband just tasted it, didn’t like it that much. It was just a little bit more sour than my memory but I loved it still.

Anyway when I said I missed balimbing, Elisa, a cousin visiting from Chicago and living with her sister, Ester, in Paranaque said, “We have a balimbing tree and it’s full of fruit now. “ Ester said, “I will send you some.” I was ecstatic. It was like she told me I was going to be a child again.

She sent me a basket full of golden ripe balimbing and some not-so-ripe green ones. I love the ripe ones, slice them into stars and have been eating them since. The flavor of balimbing is bland, discreet, but it has a taste I love with enough touches of sweetness. I eat two always in one sitting. I offer it to people who come to visit. They only want to taste.

Back to my beloved balimbing: If you are called a balimbing it implies you are probably or certainly a turncoat or two-faced—someone who says one thing but who does the opposite secretly.

Balimbing in English is called either carambola or star fruit. Its shape is multi-faceted so that when you slice it crosswise it looks like stars. That’s why they call it star fruit. I looked it up in Google and found delightful photographs that I sought to copy but couldn’t. I could only copy text that said: “Balimbing is naturally shaped like a star and can be eaten with its skin intact. It is a favorite snack for communities in the Philippines and its sweet flavor is making it popular around the world. Exceptionally rich in disease-fighting vitamins and minerals, this fruit is not far from becoming the next ‘super fruit’... Balimbing is not short on vitamins, minerals and fiber… It contains as much as 22 grams of vitamin C, which forms about 20 percent of the suggested daily intake... Researchers claim that balimbing contains reasonable quantities of magnesium, potassium and folic... (it also has) antioxidants in high concentrations, has far-reaching health benefits and can offer protection against common colds, heart conditions, diabetes and cancer.”

For readers who want to see more beautiful pictures of the balimbing I recommend visiting Google. There you have everything in full color. 

Isn’t that amazing? I wish could plant a balimbing tree but my porch is so tiny. I already have a calamansi tree and an aratiles tree because someone told me the fruit is good for diabetes. They’re still small but one day they will be big though I will try to semi-bonsai them to fit. This might work on the aratiles tree but the balimbing tree is big and definitely requires more space than a flowerpot.

For readers who want to see more beautiful pictures of the balimbing I recommend visiting Google. There you have everything in full color. There I discovered something exciting—a marvelous albeit subtle example of the Filipino sense of humor. I tried to copy it but like the beautiful pictures of the balimbing tree, ripe and unripe fruit, they refused to be copied. I tried to find it again so I could quote it correctly but either because I’m not a smart techie or I forgot exactly where to find it, I failed. So instead let me try to reconstruct.

It’s a photo of the ripe fruit. Under it there is this text: “Balimbing. Baka ikaw rin.” Or in English: “Balimbing. Maybe you, too.” Very subtle, but very honest. It leads you to another meaning of the word “balimbing.” In Pilipino it means having many faces, like the fruit. If you are called a balimbing it implies you are probably or certainly a turncoat or two-faced: someone who says one thing but who does the opposite secretly. For example, you may have a very good friend who is always so nice to you and your husband. You like her gifts, her attention, you view them as kindness, you never suspect that she and your husband are up to something behind your back.

Or the elections. There are enough candidates who smile joyfully at you because they won their seats with fantastic landslides when, in fact, they had been researching and paying tremendous amounts to people who were expert in manipulating election results all over the world, so why can they not do it in your small country?

 But so what, right? Back to my beloved balimbing. It’s wonderfully delicious to eat at this time of year!