Bitter Gourd - Bitter Squash - Balsam Pear - Bitter Melon
Momordica charamtia Linnaeus
Cucurbitaceae (Gourd) Family

Bitter Gourd is a tropical and subtropical vine that is widely grown in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean for its edible fruit. Its many varieties differ substantially in the shape and bitterness of the fruit. Most time to plant is used as an ornamental in our region, or as the base plant for developing other ornamental variations.

The leaves are simple, alternate on the vine, 1.6 to 4.8 inches across, with 3 to 7 deeply separated lobes.

The flowers are yellow, also crinkled, male and female on the same vine. There are two or more ways to evenly divide the flower, which is radially symmetrical. There are five petals, sepals, or tepals in the flower. Rhe sepals are fused into a cup or tube. Stamen number 1 or often 2. Flowers occur during June and July.

Fruit is oblong, warty, and cucumber-like. It is hollow in cross-section, with a relatively thin layer of flesh surrounding a central seed cavity filledwith large, flat seeds and pith. As the fruit ripens the flesh becomes somewhat tougher and more bitter, and many consider it too distasteful to eat. On the other hand, the pith becomes sweet and intensely red and may be eaten uncooked in this state. When fully ripe, it turns orange and mushy, and splits into segments which curl back dramatically to expose seeds covered in bright red pulp.

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