Bitter gourd is actually not a vegetable but fruit. The fruit of bitter gourd is used for consumption and various medicinal purposes. Bitter gourd consumed as juice also offers many medicinal benefits. Bitter gourd contains iron, magnesium, vitamins, and potassium. The calcium and potassium content in it is twice that of spinach and banana.
Different Names of Bitter gourd
- Common names: bitter melon, papailla, melao de sao caetano, bittergourd, balsam apple, etc.
- Indian names: Hindi- Karela, Kannada-Hagalkai
- Botanical Name: Momordica charantia
Benefits of Bitter gourd
- Helps in maintaining blood sugar levels – Bitter gourd contains an insulin-like compound called Polypeptide-p or p-insulin which has been shown to control diabetes naturally.
- Lowers bad cholesterol levels – It maintains the blood pressure of the body as it is rich in potassium, which absorbs excessive sodium in the body. This lowers heart risks.
- Improves skin and hair: Bitter gourd juice has powerful anti-oxidants along with vitamin A and C which prevent premature skin ageing and diminishes wrinkles.
Bittergourd comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. The cultivar common to China is 20–30 cm long, oblong with bluntly tapering ends and pale green in colour, with a gently undulating, warty surface. The bitter melon more typical of India has a narrower shape with pointed ends, and a surface covered with jagged, triangular “teeth” and ridges. It is green to white in colour. Between these two extremes are any number of intermediate forms. Some bear miniature fruit of only 6–10 cm in length, which may be served individually as stuffed vegetables.
- Life-Cycle: Annual
- Height: tendril-bearing vine grows to 5 m.
- Width/Spread: It bears simple, alternate leaves 4–12 cm across
- Flowering season: spring
- Flower: pale yellow
- Foliage: Bitter melon leaves are vibrant green and are attached to a vine with long thin stems. Leaves are made up of 3 to 6 veined lobes and have jagged edges.
- Sunlight: It grows best under full sun, therefore requires around 6-8 hours of direct exposure to sunlight.
- Water: It should be watered regularly especially when the top-soil turns dry. It is important to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Over-watering can cause rotting and fungal diseases.
- Sowing season: Bittergourd plant care dictates planting when there is no danger of frost and temperatures have warmed.
- Sowing method: Grown as an annual crop, seeds can be obtained from a number of suppliers and direct sown in almost any soil type, although growing bitter gourd seeds do best in deep, well-draining, sandy or silt loam.
Bittergourd is susceptible to most of the same diseases and insect attacks that plague squash and cucumbers. Bittergourd should be stored between 53-55 degrees F. (11-12 C.) at a fairly high humidity with a shelf life of 2-3 weeks. It is important to keep the bitter gourd fruit away from other ripening fruits to avoid hastening the ripening process.
Mosaic virus and powdery mildew afflict bitter gourds are common pests. For this, commercial producers often cover the developing fruit with paper bags.
Propagation is through direct seeding and transplanting. The best medium for the seeds is a fertile, well-drained soil with a pH ranging from 5.5 to 6.7, enriched with organic matter, such as compost or dried manure. But it will tolerate any soil that provides a good drainage system. The soil must be prepared well by adding organic matter before planting.
So, with this we have come to the end of our blog. Hope this enhanced your knowldge on bittergourd, and you would now run to your kitchen to experiment with it.