Harvest: More On The Bitter Melon
It is winter time, January in South Florida, and a two week cold snap finished off the last of my Bitter Melon or Bitter Gourd plant. I wrote about this crop while I was growing it in the article In The Garden: Growing Bitter Melon.
I want to share what I learned about this crop as well as some harvest pics.
Although bores destroyed all of the cucumbers I planted nearby they left the Biter Gourd crop alone though it is in the same cucurbitaceae family. I think the smell of the Bitter Gourd plant makes it unappealing to insects. This crop lasted for several months and made mad delicious gourds, lots of them. The plants I put under the Avocado tree did not do as well as the crop that grew on the fence. The idea is sound, but the soil beneath the tree is not as good as the soil I made in the mound at the fence.
Stir frying this vegetable until tender enough to eat was taking too long, and so once it was cut into pieces I steamed it for about 8 minutes before tossing it into the skillet with the black bean sauce and oil. Then, since I had water left from the steaming process I used that water in the sauce. I found that the more I ate the Bitter Melon Gourd the more I craved it, and my husband went from being turned off by the flavor of the Biter Melon to enjoying it whenever I cooked it.
I found that it was better for me if the vegetable did not begin to turn orange at all before I harvested it because it kept longer in the refrigerator, but if I harvested when the seeds were ripe the gourd was more tender and cooked faster than if the seeds weren’t yet ripe. So the trick was to harvest when the fruit was ripe but not over ripe. Though I often harvested and ate gourds before the seeds were fully developed.
The variety of Bitter Gourd seed I bought is called Comet. It is a hybrid variety so I did not save any seeds. I bought the seeds from Johnny’s Select Seeds. All of the seeds germinated, and the plants grew quickly and fruited for a long time.
Kitazawa Seed Co. is my Asian vegetable seed hook up. They have a large selection of Bitter Gourd varieties. I am getting some of their Bitter Gourds seeds to plant this summer so that I can get an heirloom variety and save some seeds for the next time around. I am hoping there is such a thing.
Love bitter melon! Thanks for the harvesting and cooking advice.
Thanks for the comment Dorothy, and for eating and loving the bitter melon gourd.
A year or so ago I noticed a “weed” in my front yard with bright yellow flowers and bright orange fruit shaped like small pointed Christmas ornaments that would split open to reveal bright red seeds. A friend who knows about plants said it was a bitter melon. ( It must be a wild version as it was tiny and not really big enough to eat.) I researched it online and found it is often used in regulating blood sugar levels. I tried planting some of the seeds in pots but they did not grow. It was quite interesting to see the same flowers and plants again in your photos. Did the ones you grew have bright red seeds also?
I am now inspired to try it!
Hard to find information I was looking for. Thanks.
Yes Carol I do believe these two are very closely related. Thanks so much for your comment. Please read my earlier article about the bitter melon gourd, it directly answers your question. I put a link to the earlier article in the first paragraph of this article, but here is the link for you. http://manuredepot.com/in-the-garden-growing-bitter-melon/
What my earlier article doesn’t say is that this related weed that is very common and a hardy weed in my yard is, I heard, becoming more rare now that so much of our land is under the control of people who don’t tolerate weeds. That’s surprising and unfortunate.
Hey Danny, Thanks for your comment.
Oh I hope you get to try some bitter melon Sara. Thanks for your comment.
I had a lot of the related bitter melon weed in my yard, but the cold weather in January seems to have completely wiped it out. I am wondering if it will come back.
Thanks for your comment Lisa. I am sure your bitter melon style weed will come back in no time. I noticed all of mine was frozen down too.
Oh, this is awesome! My boyfriend and I moved into a house here in Phoenix, AZ, last November and we’re preparing our first-ever garden. I’ve got the standard tomatoes, eggplants, peas, herbs, etc., lined up, but I didn’t consider bitter melon–one of my favorites, and one he’s growing to enjoy more each time I cook it for him. I saw you’d already had yours established by September. Do you think it’s too late to grow them now? My parents grew them in California, but out there, you pretty much just drop a seed on the ground and it will grow and fruit almost any time of year (I know, a gross exaggeration, but it was definitely easier, and my parents made it look easy). Anyway, I’ll have to see how it does in Zone 9 and if I can find some seeds to sow. I’m glad I found your blog. We’ve got our seeds started, some bigger seedlings bought, and are building our raised bed tonight. The plan I put together after some research looks a lot like yours. Thanks for posting your “lasagna” recipe, too!
Hey Julie, It’s great to hear from another bitter melon lover! I am in zone 9b, and it is for sure too cold here right now for the bitter melon plant to survive. It really likes much warmer weather. We are having nights in the 30’s and 40’s. I am always glad to find a vegetable I can grow here in the summer since we do most of our growing in the winter, and I jones for green stuff in the summer months. I will be starting new bitter melon plants midway thru March when I am sure the weather will be warm enough. You can find a large variety of bitter melon seeds at Kitazawa Seeds.
Thanks for checking out the Manure Depot Blog. Best of luck to you both in your new home and garden in Phoenix.
I really loved eating bitter melon , and i have lots of recipe for this. In the Phillipines where i was raised we included the leaves when cooking a monggo beans sauted with pork or shrimp,tomatoes,garlic,onion, fish sauce to taste it’s our vegetable soup in the phillipines. Bitter melon is good in preventing our blood sugar. In chinese they cooked it with beef just saute it in garlic, onion, an beef strips, sesame oil and soy sauce sliced it diagonally and corn starch for the sauce, they call it beef ampalaya(bitter melon). Try it you’ll loved it.
Thanks for your delicious comment Marilou. The first time I had bitter melon I was eating employee meal at the Chinese restaurant where I was working. It was just as you said in black bean garlic sauce with strips of beef. Your soup recipe sounds wonderful. I have cooked bitter melon with black bean garlic sauce for myself and my husband. My husband adds it to his goat curry dish, but I have found that most westerners don’t appreciate the bitter flavor so when I am cooking for guests I have combined it into stronger tasting dishes where it is hidden, still healthful, but less obvious. I have put it into Chile, and even into Thanksgiving bread stuffing.