Momordica charantia- Bitter gourd – bitter melon -bitter squash – balsam pear…
These are the names for something truly fascinating . It has definitely been the most exciting thing we have grown so far on our balcony. Bear with me, while I give a little info about our experience growing this plant. Then you can look at the exciting photos at the end of this post! And exciting is an understatement. Exotic, vibrant and crazy!!!
You may ask what made us decide to grow it? We just like to experiment a little, so went on jungleseeds.co.uk to pick some more exotic seeds. And that’s where we came across the bitter gourd.
We started it off from rather intriguing looking seeds, soaking them in water over night before placing them in soil. We didn’t really know what to expect…whether any would actually germinate…but luckily we were successful.
We partly wanted it to act as a trellis cover for some shade on our balcony, since it is a climbing plant. It truly lived up to this expectation. If you want something quick growing and climbing with beautiful bright green leaves, then you should go for this too. It spread so fast and looks truly beautiful, with its jagged leaves.
We also read up a bit about how to look after the plant to promote fruit formation. Generally different information sources say that it is important to clip off the very end of the plant to promote side shoot formation. And then, once the side shoots have reached the end of the net or trellis, to also clip the very end off. A total of 5 or 6 side shoots are enough, so you can also clip off any additional ones to help concentrate the energy into fruit formation.
Again, we were successful with the above outlined plant care, because soon we noticed plenty of flowers forming. Both male and female flowers. The female flowers can be distinguished by a thicker jagged stem which, if the flower is successfully fertilized will form the bitter gourd fruit. Because I wasn’t sure, whether pollinating insects will like the gourd flowers I decided to fertilize the first flowers myself by rubbing the male flower onto a female flower.
Hey presto! The first few bitter gourd fruits started to mature after I pollinated them :))) and thereafter we also noticed that the local bees love the bitter gourd flowers which meant I could leave the rest of the flowers to be pollinated by bees.
The rest you just have to see on photos I took of the bitter gourd fruits forming. Truly exciting to watch from start to finish. At the end we ended up with lots of seeds from the fruit, which I am drying to try and germinate next year.
In terms of eating the bitter gourd: it is definitely edible and has been shown to have medicinal properties. The bitterness depends on the variety and our one unfortunately is VERY bitter indeed!!!! We harvested one as a young green fruit after reading that they get more bitter as they mature. We haven’t yet figured out how to prepare it to actually be able to eat it. I tried to salt it, to remove some of the bitterness, followed by frying it. With no success. Maybe prepared as part of a curry or pickled would be better. Any suggestions very welcome indeed! In the mean time, we are just enjoying the spectacle it is creating on our balcony…with the exotic colour changes and jagged dragon like shape :)))
That’s it for now. Enjoy the photos!