Kamias – Bilimbi Fruit

Averrhoa bilimbiAverrhoa bilimbi, or bilimbi, is widely called kamias in the Philippines and “cucumber tree” or “tree sorrel” in English. The 5 – 12 m tall tree is native to southeast Asia and was once common in all local household backyards. It is a fruit-bearing tree, and the small (4 cm in length), green, acidic fruits have various culinary uses. Kamias gives a sour flavor to dishes. One typical recipe is sinigang na salmon sa kamias (salmon belly in sour soup), which sees the fruits boiled and then crushed to extract the flavor from the pulp. The fruits can also be eaten raw, dipped in rock salt, transformed into juice or relish or pickled. Kamias is also sometimes used as a substitute for tamarind. Sometime the flowers are also preserved in sugar.

This species is also considered to have medicinal properties. Leaves of the tree can be used to treat itchy skin, insect or animal bites, swelling and rheumatism. Infusions of the flowers are given to treat coughs. It is considered a fruit that strengthens the immune system thanks to a high quantity of ascorbic acid. Despite these many uses, kamias is not a commercially cultivated fruit can only occasionally be found in local markets.

The tree was once quite widespread throughout the Philippines, but now is found mainly in rural areas, and only rarely in household gardens. Many families have enlarged their homes or built new construction on land where the trees once thrived, and the proliferation of processed food means there is less interest in home cultivation in favor of convenience foods. Although kamias was once considered a basic ingredient in most local soups and fish dishes, it has been replaced by instant broth mixes and its uses forgotten by many home cooks.

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