Bitter Gourd: A bitter but healthy vegetable

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade :Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Class: Rosids
Order :Cucurbitaceae
Genus : Momordica
Species: charantia
Binomial name : Momordica charantia L.

Young fruit;
Source: pikist.com

Introduction

Bitter gourd is also known as bitter melon or Momordica charantia L. It is herbaceous having tendril stem and mainly found in moderate warm climates. The most suited temperature is about 25 to 35 degree centigrade Bitter gourd is a kind similar to squash, pumpkin, and cucumber. Generally it grows up to 5m (16 ft) in length.

The Indian and Nepalese variety is narrower and has pointed ends with rough, a jagged spike on the rind.it is known by its local name as karelo in Nepal.

Male flower;
Source: Wikipedia.com

Medicinal uses

  • Diabetes
  • Cough
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Skin diseases
  • Ulcer
  • Gout
  • Rheumatism

Female flower Source: Wikimedia.com

Bitter gourd is used for various medicinal purposes in south Asia. It is believed that for the following sickness it is useful according to Ayurveda.

Its dried slices further are used as herbal tea and culinary vegetables. It is found to be effective for bile, liver, digestion, prevent from cold and influenza, throat inflammation, and reduce cholesterol in blood.

Varieties/types of bitter gourd

Bitter gourd is mainly found in Asia : Phule ujwal, COBgoH 1 hybrid, arka harit  ,phule green gold, priya, hirkani,CO 1, MDU 1,priyanka and preethi

Bitter gourd plant;
Source: Wikimedia, 2020

Soil
For the better production of bitter gourd, Sandy loam soils is preferable with enough organic matter. There must be a bit of a high plot that water logging fields must be avoided.  PH range of 6.5-7.0 is suited for its cultivation. There must be good drainage facilities. The silty soil of the river bed is also good for its yield.

Season
The varieties grown in the summer season are small fruits and those grown in the rainy season are long fruited. Bitter gourd is essentially a warm season crop grown mainly in tropical and subtropical regions; however, it can also be grown at slightly lower temperature.

Bitter gourd is generally grown in summer as well as in the rainy season. In the latter season, vine growth is spread very extensively

Seed rate
Seed rate depends upon varieties of bitter gourd. On average 5.5 kg seed is required per hectare.

Preparation of field
 The land should be Plough 2 to 3 times till fine tilth. The weeds should be removed completely from the field.

 Sowing
First make the pit of 50-60 cm diameter and 40 cm depth mix the rotted farmyard manure with topsoil. Now 4 to 5 seeds per pit is to be kept with in depth upto 2 -3cm not more than that treated with Trichoderma viride 4 g or Pseudomonas fluorescens 10 g  or Carbendazim 10 g/kg of seeds. Sow the seeds using dibbling method maintain proper ap of 1m * 1m. Remove the unhealthy plants after germination and it is to note that only three plants should be kept in one pit. Extra seeds were sown for the safety margin of germination.

Watering required before dibbling or covering with soil to the seeds and thereafter once a week.

Irrigation

Manual watering to make the soil moist is enough for bitter gourd. Drip irrigation is suitable mostly if farming is on a large scale and in case of water scarcity.

Intercultural activities/operation

:- Up the soil during rainy seasons.

:- Hoeing should be done 2 to 3 times during the time of plant growth

:- Weeding operation must be carried out before the input of fertilizer.

Roof or support

Straight wood or stick can be used as a support or a steel wire as per choice. Making a roof for plants to travel is also known as pandal or chhattri.

Bitter gourd vines;
Source: Pexels.com

Fertigation
Apply a dose of 200:100:100 kg NPK/ha throughout the cropping period through split application.

Fertigation Schedule- Bitter gourd (Hybrid)
Recommended dose: 200:100:100 kg/ha

Nitrogen requirement summary of Bitter Gourd plant; Source: agritech.tnau.ac.in

*75% RD of Phosphorus applied as superphosphate = 469 Kg/ha.
1. 19:19:19 = 53 kg/ha
2. 13:0:45 = 199kg/ha
3. 12:61:0 = 25 kg/ha
4. Urea = 351 kg/ha

Plant protection
Pests

Mites: Spray dicofol 18.5 % SC @ 2.5 ml per litre of water.

Aphid: Spray Imidacloprid @ 0.5 ml/lit along with sufficient quantity of stickers like Teepol, triton X100, apsa etc., for better adhesion and coverage.

Beetles, fruit flies and caterpillars
Beetles, fruit flies and caterpillars can be controlled by spraying Malathion 50 EC 1ml/lit or Dimethoate 30 EC 1ml/lit or Methyl demeton 25 EC 1ml/lit.
Caution :Do not use DDT, copper and sulphur dust, they are phytotoxic.

Diseases in bitter gourd

Powdery Mildew;
Source: ShutterStock.com
Downy Mildew;
Source: Vijayaraghavan et al., 2017

Powdery mildew
Powdery mildew can be controlled by spraying Dinocap 1ml/lit or Carbendazim 0.5 g/lit.

Downy mildew
Downy mildew can be controlled by spraying Mancozeb or Chlorothalonil 2 g/lit twice at 10 days interval.

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy79 kJ (19 kcal)
 
Carbohydrates4.32 g
Sugars1.95 g
Dietary fiber2 g
 
Fat0.18 g
 
Protein0.84 g
 
VitaminsQuantity%DV
Vitamin A equiv. beta-Carotene lutein zeaxanthin1% 6 μg 1% 68 μg 1323 μg
Thiamine (B1)4% 0.051 mg
Riboflavin (B2)4% 0.053 mg
Niacin (B3)2% 0.28 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)4% 0.193 mg
Vitamin B63% 0.041 mg
Folate (B9)13% 51 μg
Vitamin C40% 33 mg
Vitamin E1% 0.14 mg
Vitamin K5% 4.8 μg
 
MineralsQuantity%DV
Calcium1% 9 mg
Iron3% 0.38 mg
Magnesium5% 16 mg
Manganese4% 0.086 mg
Phosphorus5% 36 mg
Potassium7% 319 mg
Sodium0% 6 mg
Zinc8% 0.77 mg
 
Other constituentsQuantity
Water93.95 g
Link to USDA Database entry
Unitsμg = micrograms • mg = milligramsIU = International units
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Nutrient content of Bitter gourd

Harvesting and yield

Bitter gourd can be harvested after 2 months of sowing. The young fruit must be harvested carefully without damaging the plant vine. Young fruit can be stored in a cool dry place for 2 to 3 days only.

Yield depends upon the varieties of seeds, soil health, its type and favorable conditions. Meeting all the requirements generally in average 70 to 100 quintal/ha bitter gourd can be obtained.

Post harvest operation

According to ( Talukder et al. 2004)” different post harvest treatments manifested specific attribute in maintaining physical appearance, acceptability and economic return for bitter gourd the physical appearance of bitter gourd at 6 days after storage was better in the perforated polythene bag and wet gunny bag”. Other post harvest operation includes grading, cleaning processing, drying, wax coating etc.

References

Swagatam, T., Khalequzzaman, KM, … Alam, MM, 2004. Prepackaging, storage losses and physiological changes of fresh bitter gourd as influenced by post harvest treatments. Journal of Biological Sciences 4, 613–615

 USDA Nutrient Database

http://agritech.tnau.ac.in/horticulture/horti_index.html

Content Credit: Suman Ghimire; Intern Content Writer, Krishi Master Nepal, 2020

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