The bilimbi tree is long-lived, reaches 5-10 m in height. Its trunk is short and quickly divides up into ramifications. Bilimbi leaves, 30-60 cm long, are alternate, imparipirmate and cluster at branch extremities. There are around 11 to 37 alternate or subopposite oblong leaflets. This Carambola relative produces very small pickle-like fruits which are borne directly on the trunk of the tree and also on the branches. The fruits are preceded by small red flowers on the trunk and branches. Its flowers, like its fruits, are found in hairy panicles that directly emerge from the trunk as well as from the oldest, most solid branches. The yellowish or purplish flowers are tiny, fragrant and have 5 petals. The bilimbi fruit's form ranges from ellipsoid to almost cylindrical. Its length is 4-10 cm. The bilimbi is 5-sided, but in a less marked way than the carambola. If unripe, it is bright green and crispy. It turns yellowish as it ripens. The flesh is juicy, green and extremely acidic. The fruit's skin is glossy and very thin. The bilimbi is too acid for eating raw but the green uncooked fruits are prepared as a relish in Suriname. Originated seemingly from the Moluccas, in India, where it is usually found in gardens, the bilimbi has gone wild in the warmest regions of the country.
Averrhoa bilimbi is a small tropical tree native to Malaysia and Indonesia, reaching up to 15m in height.
Bilimbi leaves are alternate, pinnate, measuring approximately 30–60 cm in length. Each leaf contains 11-37 leaflets; ovate to oblong, 2–10 cm long and 1–2 cm wide and cluster at branch extremities. The leaves are quite similar to those of the Oataheite gooseberry. The tree is cauliflorous with 18–68 flowers in panicles that form on the trunk and other branches. The flowers are heterotristylous, borne in a pendulous panicle inflorescence. There flower is fragrant, corolla of 5 petals 10–30 mm long, yellowish green to reddish purple. The fruit is ellipsoidal, elongated, measuring about 4 – 10 cm and sometimes faintly 5-angled.
The skin, smooth to slightly bumpy, thin and waxy turning from light green to yellowish-green when ripe. The flesh is crisp and the juice is sour and extremely acidic and therefore not typically consumed as fresh fruit by itself. Fruit is often preserved and used as a popular flavouring/seasoning and is a key ingredient in many Indonesian dishes .
In Malaysia the leaves of bilimbi are used as a treatment for venereal disease. A leaf decoction is taken as a medicine to relieve rectal inflammation. It seems to be effective against coughs and thrush.
the leaves serve as a paste on itches, swelling, rheumatism, mumps or skin eruptions. Elsewhere, they are used for bites of venomous creatures. A leaf infusion is used as an after-birth tonic, while the flower infusion is used for thrush, cold, and cough.