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Bitter gourd, also known as bitter melon, is a tropical and subtropical vine that belongs to the family Cucurbitaceae. It is grown for its edible fruit, which has a distinctive bitter taste and is widely used in various cuisines.
Botanical name: Momordica charantia
Plant morphology: Bitter gourd is a climbing vine with long, slender stems that can grow up to 5 meters long. The leaves are heart-shaped and about 5-10 cm wide, with 3-7 pointed lobes. The fruit is oblong or cylindrical in shape, and can grow up to 30 cm long. It has a warty exterior and a green, fleshy interior with numerous seeds.
Common names: Bitter gourd (English), Karela (Hindi), Karavila (Sinhala), Pavakka (Malayalam), Hagalkai (Kannada), Korola (Bengali)
Soil and Climatic requirement: Bitter gourd grows best in well-drained, sandy loam soil with a pH of 5.5-6.7. It requires warm and humid climate and grows well in temperatures ranging from 24-35°C. It is a sun-loving plant and requires full exposure to sunlight.
Crop Duration: 90-120 days
Cropping season: Bitter gourd is a warm season crop and can be grown throughout the year in tropical and subtropical regions.
Planting type: Direct sowing or transplanting.
Spacing: For trellis system planting distance of 2m x 2m is ideal with two plants per pit.
Depth of sowing: 2-3 cm
Germination period: 8-10 days
Hours of sunlight required: At least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight is required for proper growth and fruiting.
Watering: Bitter gourd requires regular watering, especially during flowering and fruiting stages. Overwatering should be avoided to prevent waterlogging and rotting of roots.
Companion crops: Okra, tomato, chili pepper, and eggplant.
Harvesting: The fruits are ready for harvesting about 55-60 days after sowing or transplanting. They should be harvested when they are still green and tender, usually about 8-10 cm in length. Mature fruits are very bitter and not suitable for consumption.
Problems of Bitter gourd cultivation:
Pests: Aphids, whiteflies, mites, fruit flies, and leafhoppers.
Diseases: Powdery mildew, bacterial wilt, downy mildew, and mosaic virus.
The seeds were easy to plant and the resulting plants produced an abundance of healthy and flavorful fruits. Not only are bitter gourds delicious, but they're also packed with health benefits. Fully satisfied.