Bitter Gourd is an internationally known plant that is eaten for many of its beneficiary health effects and has been being used for a longtime throughout the world. It is known as the most bitter, edible vegetable and humans are the only mammals that have developed a taste for the bitter gourd. It is known by different names worldwide such as
English – bitter gourd or bitter melon or balsam pear • French – assorossie • Spanish – balsamina• Tagalog – ampalaya• Bengali – korolla• Hindi/Urdu – karela• Japanese – nigauri or goya• Mandarin – ku gua• Taiwanese – ko guai• Arabic – Hanzal• Portuguese – melao-de-sao-caetano• Vietnamese – kho qua• Other names. Bitter gourd, balsam pear (United States); fukwa (Chinese); kerala (India); nigaiuri (Japanese); ampalaya (Filipino).
This plant can be found all around Asia but the origin is unknown. It is mainly said to grow in tropical climates that include India, Pakistan, China, Caribbean, Japan, and Africa.
There are many medicinal and health purposes that the bitter gourd is used for such as:
• to help diabetics lower their glucose levels (hypoglycemic effect)
• to stimulate digestion • as a fever reducer
• as an anti-HIV treatment • to help with skin problems
• anti-viral and anti-bacterial activity
• to reduce blood pressure • to lower cholesterol
• to reduce inflammation • to detoxify the body
• to expel worms • to balance hormones
• to enhance immunity
Bitter melon grows well in warm temperatures similar to those preferred for squash or muskmelons. Frost can kill the plants, and cool temperatures will retard development. Bitter melon normally is grown as an annual crop, but can perform as perennial in mild-winter areas.
Propagation and care
Plantings are commonly established by direct-seeding in the field. Bitter melon seeds should be planted ¾ inch deep and spaced 20 inches apart. In warm soil, seedlings emerge in week or less. Transplants can also be used, but plants should be grown by method that does not disturb the root system during planting. Bare-root plants will not survive well. trellis is required to support the climbing vine. The trellis should be about feet high, and constructed from stakes to feet apart with system of vertical strings running between top and bottom horizontal wires. Rows should be spaced ’48 to 60 inches apart, with plants 18 to 24 inches apart in the row. Plants are ideally suited to culture along fence lines of 6- to 8-inch wire mesh.
Pests and diseases
Bitter melon is susceptible to many of the same diseases and insect pests that affect squash, cucumbers, and muskmelons. Bitter melon fruits are at risk from the mosaic virus, powdery mildew, and being attacked by insects such as the fruit flies. In order to protect the fruits, it is common to wrap them in newspapers or paper bags with an opening at the bottom. Powdery mildew can be controlled with sulfur dust. The fruits are sub ject to attack by various fruit flies and fruit rots. Harvest and postharvest practices. The fruits will be to inches (10 to 15 cm) long. Beyond this stage, fruits become spongy and more bitter and they lose their market value. The development of mature fruits on the plants may reduce setting of new fruits, so harvesting should be frequent enough to remove fruits at the proper market stage.
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