June Vegetable of the Month is Bitter Gourd or Ampalaya

BITTER GOURD or AMPALAYA

Scientific Name: Momordica charantia
Family: Cucurbitaceae (Squash Family)

Ampalaya (Momordica charantia) is literally a bitter pill to swallow. But once you get used to its taste, you will even crave its unique flavor and texture. The fruits should be harvested while young and green (they’re not good once they start turning yellow). They’re best stir-fried with tomatoes, onions, and garlic (add beaten eggs if you’re not vegan). And don’t forget that the leaves are also edible, and are amazing in munggo (mung bean) soup/stew. This plant is also known for its medicinal uses, and has been marketed as an anti-diabetic. Pregnant women should not consume too much of this vegetable though!

Growing this vine, which is also known as bitter melon, is fairly easy. Just plant seeds directly in soil, not need for special germination treatment. It can even thrive in soils that are relatively not very fertile. It can also be grown as a potted plant, but wherever you plant it, you will need to support it with a trellis or if you prefer, just allow it to creep up the stems of your other plants. It may be grown in shady areas to get large leaves, but for it to flower and fruit, a more sunny side of the garden is needed. Flowers are unisexual, so there are pollen-bearing and fruit bearing flowers. Beware of the pests — the fruits and leaves of this plant are prone to insect attacks. Harvest before the bugs get to them!

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