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PlantFiles: Balsam Pear, Bitter Gourd, Bitter Cucumber, La-Kwa
Momordica charantia

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Family: Cucurbitaceae (koo-ker-bih-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Momordica (mo-MOR-di-ka) (Info)
Species: charantia (char-AN-tee-a) (Info)

2 vendors have this plant for sale.

16 members have or want this plant for trade.

Category:
Vines and Climbers

Height:
10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)

Spacing:
18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

Hardiness:
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Danger:
Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
Gold (Yellow-Orange)

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer
Late Summer/Early Fall

Foliage:
Unknown - Tell us

Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:
Non-patented

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds

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There are a total of 13 photos.
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Profile:

3 positives
2 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

RatingAuthorContent
Positive J_C On Jul 13, 2008, J_C from Saint Petersburg, FL wrote:

The plant grows great in both Saint Petersburg, FL and Miami, Florida. The fruit is prickly and orange in color and grows to a little bigger than the size of a golf ball in Miami while in Saint Petersburg it grows almost to the size of the golf ball. I had a plant growing all over the fence in Saint Petersburg last year.

While in Miami, I was looking for things that help with manage diabetes. I found the bitter melons in the oriental shops and they do a great job with diabetes with no noticed harmful side effects. These look like prickly (bumpy) cucumbers about the size of cucumbers. And I bought some seeds to try growing the vine here in Florida (sold at the oriental grocer in Miami). Before I left Miami, I did manage to get some vines started in Miami for a friend.o

Going back to the smaller orange variety, I did taste those and eat those at a point. Those seemed to help with diabetes as well, but I believe the seeds found in the fruit work better. This is the fruit identified as balsam apple I believe. It's fruit ends up orange in color and it splits open after a day or two once it's taken off the vine and it ends up as a brilliant red color inside, very beautiful to view. I found the seeds seem to help with epileptic conditions, whereby it helps the mind, but I'm not up to testing it out any further at the moment. I ate one seed a week. The seeds are slightly smaller in size than a green pea. And they taste pretty good. I do NOT recommend eating them, because I have not found any one else recommending it and I hesitate for fear of a bad effect upon someone else. So eat these at YOUR OWN RISK.

They're not all that great, so I hereby grant permission to use them. I'll get some more when the fruit start growing again. The fruit seems to come around in the latter part of the year, October and later going all the way into January.

The bitter melon vines (they look like prickly cucumbers) can be found in oriental restaurants and grocers. They're a bit more expensive than regular cucumbers, and are not bad in flavor. These do help regulate blood sugars in some way and can be recommended for diabetics, both Type I and Type II diabetics.

Positive Lily_love On May 17, 2007, Lily_love from Central, AL (Zone 7b) wrote:

Is there an error to say that this plan with the posted fruit is "poisonous"?, for the fruit is edible. I hope there will be further correction if it was. I knew for quite sometime that this was referred to as "Bitter Gourd" or "Bitter Cucumber" as it belongs to the cucurbit family.

Neutral DawnRain On Apr 4, 2005, DawnRain from Bartow, FL wrote:

I think there are several closely related species. I am not a botanist so correct me where I am wrong. I think Momordica charantia is Bitter Melon and the longish fruit that is eaten by the Asian people. In Florida we have Balsam Apple, Momordica balsamica. It is as MotherNature described it. A beautiful fruit with an interesting vine and butter yellow simple, but nice bloom and rather pretty. It loses pretty because it has a tendency to be invasive and perennial in our Florida gardens. And it has a nasty smell when you are pulling it. But I do keep one on a post just because I like the look of it. I didn't know that it was also edible. That is great info.

Neutral MotherNature4 On Apr 3, 2005, MotherNature4 from Bartow, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

The fruit of this plant doesn't look like the Chinese lantern shaped fruit of Momordica charantia in my reference book. It only uses the common name Balsam Apple, and not Bitter Melon.

The leaves are palmately veined with 5 lobes and variable notches along the margins.

The Warty outer skin is bright yellow. It splits along three lines, curls back to show the bright red, fleshy pulp that covers the tan colored seeds. The pulp is sweet and tastes similar to watermelon.

I will try to send some photos.
++++++++++++++
I would like to back up. Two usually reliable resources describe these plants with different names. According to Wunderlin, GUIDE TO THE VASCULAR PLANTS OF FLORIDA, it is M. charantia that is commonly found in Florida. M. balsamina is listed as rare. The key says the bract of the male flower has a toothed margin. In M. charantia, the bract of the male flower has an entire margin.

The one pictured above IS NOT the one that commonly grows all over central & southern Florida.

Needless to say, this is all very confusing, so wait until we can do more research or the plants begin to bloom again. MN4

Positive soilsandup On Jul 9, 2003, soilsandup from Sacramento, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

I am Chinese and my mother grows a crop of bitter melon every year. It is definitely an acquired taste - but we grew up with it and all of my siblings like it as adults. The oldest of my three children is starting to eat it, but the two younger ones have not. Previous comments have included problems with the plant's invasiveness. Perhaps there are invasive wild varieties versus well behaved domesticated ones. I do not know of anyone complaining about this plant among the Chinese community. My mother picks all of the melons as they are produced, leaving a few fruits to ripen to supply seeds for next year's planting. The list of medicinal values for this plant is endless. The seeds are removed and the melon is either stuffed and steamed, or cut into small pieces and stir-fried. Dried leaves and stems are brewed as a tea in the winter as a cold remedy.

Regional...

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Vincent, Alabama
Sacramento, California
Bradley, Florida
Melbourne, Florida
Miami, Florida
Titusville, Florida
Winter Garden, Florida
Marrero, Louisiana
Raleigh, North Carolina



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