(Momordica charantia) A native of India, bitter melon can be stewed, curried, steamed, braised, pickled or cooked with scrambled eggs. Cooking tempers the bitterness, as does serving it with yogurt on the side. It's not for everyone, but many people who try bitter melon for the first time love the flavor. It is rich in iron, contains twice the beta-carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, and twice the potassium of banana. Bitter melon is also used in Chinese cooking for its bitter flavor, typically in stir fries, soups, dim sum, and herbal teas. Bitter melon thrives in heat and humidity but is very cold sensitive, so do not start seeds until after all chance of frost has passed. Direct seeding is best if your season is long and hot, however some northern gardeners will prefer to start indoors and transplant out. Be aware, however, that the plants dislike transplanting, so be gentle and grow them in a large enough pot to avoid becoming root bound. Soaking seeds overnight and nicking or splitting the tough outer seed coat may improve germination. Ideal germination temperature is 78-88F. Germinates in 7-21 days. Plant one inch deep, 24 inches apart. Grow these vining plants up a trellis or fence. Harvest fruit when green or allow to split open and eat the red "pulp," or arils, around the seeds. Be sure not to ingest the seeds as they are toxic.
An Okinawan heirloom variety with deep green skin color and a very mild bitter taste. Fruit is 3-4 inches in diameter and 8-10 inches long. This variety can tolerate high temperatures and does well up to 100 F. Harvest around 100 days after sowing. A famous medicinal food of the Okinawan longevity diet, this vegetable is loaded with vitamin C and other important nutrients.
An extra-large light green heirloom from Japan. Fruit is large and uniform with a great flavor. The bitter melon is a dietary staple on the island of Okinawa, famous for its people’s longevity. The Okinawan people have been known for great health and record-breaking longevity for almost 1000 years, largely in part to their healthy diet. Bitter melon, called Goya in Japan, has been identified as a crucial staple of the famous Okinawan longevity diet, which is also part of the Blue Zone Diet. Goya champuru is a popular Okinawan stir fry bitter melon recipe, very commonly eaten by Okinawa’s centenarian residents. We love the vitamin-rich, miraculous fruit.
Hailing from the scenic bay area of the southwestern tip of Kyushu Island, Japan, which is known for producing some of the finest bitter melons. This is an ideal bitter melon for making into tea or for cooking. Exceptionally long and slender fruit is delicious sliced and stir fried; the bitter melon’s potent superfood powers are most appreciated when paired with mellow flavors like cooked garlic and beans. This bitter melon will produce tons of snake-like fruit on long vines and is a prolific and healthful addition to the kitchen garden. 16-18 inches long and matures 60-70 days from sowing. The color is light green, tending to lighten to a white-green at the tip, and the tear-drop bumps and ridges sometimes spiral around the long fruit. Nutritious fruit contain almost as much vitamin C as citrus!