Bitter gourd (Momordica charantia) is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family and is also called depending on the country where it is cultivated, bitter melon, African cucumber, karela, carille, art pumpkin, balsam pear, maiden apple or koe. Perhaps better known for the use of the leaf, root and fruit for medicinal uses, the commodity has great potential as a food source in both developing and industrialized countries and is rich in iron, phosphorus and ascorbic acid. The fruit is intensely bitter, green and warty in appearance, and is highly fragile and perishable.bitter gourd is also known as bitter melon or balsam pear. The immature fruits and tender vine tips are used in a variety of culinary preparations. The fruits and shoots are soaked in salt water to remove some of their bitterness and then boiled, fried or pickled. The fruit of bitter gourd fruit is similar in nutritional value compared to other cucurbits with the notable exceptions that it is much higher in folate and vitamin C. The vine tips are an excellent source of vitamin A. The medicinal value of the gourd in the treatment of infectious diseases and diabetes is attracting of scientists worldwide .
Scientific Name: Momordica charantia
Common Name: bitter melon, bitter gourd, bitter squash, or balsam-pear.
How to grow and maintain bitter gourd:
Bitter gourd can be grown in any type of soil. But for best harvests, grow them in sandy loam to clay-loam soil along with good drainage and fertilization. The optimum soil pH is 6.0 to 6.7.
Sow seeds 2 cm deep. Seeds can be sown directly into the ground or in the containers but only when the risk of frost has passed and the soil warms up enough. Seeds require the temperature above 70 F (20 C) for germination.In temperate regions best seed sowing time is summer, usually between late April to May.
Seeds can be acquired on the web or in garden shops. You can likewise utilize seeds you get from ready yellow organic products. Ready seeds have a dark red shading coat. Germination is not troublesome, but rather there are a few traps to make it quicker.
Seeds will germinate slowly in 3-4 weeks if you directly sow them without pre-treatment, especially in low temperatures. But to increase germination rate and for the faster germination, you have to scarify them to remove seed coat. For this, rub the seeds from one side without making any damage to endosperm inside the seed coat. Soaking seeds for 24 hours in water before sowing will also help.
Overuse of nitrogen-rich fertilizers should be avoided, which could encourage the development of foliage at the expense of fruits. At the time of planting, you can mix slow-release complete fertilizer in the soil. Enriching the soil with compost or well-rotted aged manure and regular inputs of organic matter will be enough later. Still, if your plant is not growing well, you can feed it with liquid vegetable fertilizer once in a month.
Marketable fruits can be harvested at around 45-50 days after sowing. Fruits that are fully developed are thick, green, and juicy. Harvest frequently with an interval of 2-4 days since the fruit ripens easily. Cut the fruit stem using a sharp knife or scissor. It is best to harvest the fruits early in the morning.
Problems and Care :
Vines should be pruned at the tips when female flowers start developing to encourage branching and fast bearing. Regular fertilizing is essential for its growth. Water immediately after applying fertilizers.
Bitter gourd is susceptible to many diseases and insect pests. It is susceptible to watermelon mosaic virus, other cucurbit viruses and powdery mildew, which can be controlled by sulfur dust. Rust disease is controlled by spraying foliage with oxycarboxin. The fruits are subject to attack by various fruit flies and fruit rots. Pests attack on fruits can be prevented by wrapping fruits with newspapers, when they are about a few centimetres long.