Every year I participate in various agricultural exhibitions. Invariably, the attention of visitors is attracted by the fruits of this unusual plant. Interest only increases every year. What kind of culture is this?
MOMORDICA, or, as it is called at home, bitter melon — is an annual climbing plant of the pumpkin family, light-and heat-loving, common in tropical and subtropical countries of Asia, Africa and South America.
The plant is a Liana with thin, long (up to two meters or more) stems with large palm-dissected leaves. Fruits are elongated-oval in shape, from 7 to 50 cm long, completely covered with “warts”, which makes the surface look bumpy. They hang on long stalks.
Young fruits are green in color, but among almost 40 species of MOMORDICA there are forms with a smooth surface, with a light green, almost white color of the immature fruit. When ripe, they turn Golden yellow and open like a Lily into three fleshy petals with red seeds inside. Both the plant itself and the fruit at all stages of development look very decorative.
The food is young fruits, the flesh of which is bitter, but pleasant to the taste. They contain up to 100 mg of vitamin C, as well as carotene, vitamins B1, B2, phosphoric acid and calcium salts, pectin, and potassium (about 200 mg/%).
In southern China, MOMORDICA is popularly known as the”fruit of longevity”.
And this is not for nothing. The presence of carotene, insulin-like peptides and alkaloids in it provides a pronounced hypoglycemic effect, which helps to use MOMORDICA in folk medicine for the treatment of diabetes.
In countries with a tropical climate, it is traditionally used to treat various infectious diseases and even tumors. Seeds contain up to 55% of fatty oil, their decoction is used to treat stomach and duodenal ulcers. It is a good diuretic. Leaves are applied to wounds when bitten by snakes.
The cultivation of the Vietnamese
I recommend growing MOMORDICA plants by seedling method. I sow seedlings in mid-April, 30-35 days before planting in a permanent place. Pre-germinate seeds before pecking in a humid environment at a temperature of plus 28 to 30°C.
Heard the advice: first remove the shell from the seeds, otherwise they will not germinate. Do not conduct such dubious experiments — high-quality seeds without any outside help are picked up in 2-3 days.
Sowing is done in cups, pots with a diameter of 8-10 cm, filled with a loose soil mixture. The depth of seeding is 1-1.5 cm. Before the emergence of plants, I transfer them to the lightest place and reduce the temperature to 15-16°C for 3-4 days. In the future, I maintain the temperature at 22-25°C.
To temper the plants before planting, I reduce watering, and I take out the seedlings on the loggia, gradually increasing the time of its stay there.
MOMORDICA is very light-loving. Insufficient light during the growing season can cause you to be left without a crop.
Planting in the ground
With this in mind, I am planting plants in a permanent place in the greenhouse on may 20-25. I release the seedlings from the cups and plant them together with a clod of earth, without damaging the roots and deepening them to the cotyledon leaves. In the wells, pre-put a handful of humus and 1 tablespoon of organomineral fertilizer, pour up to 1 liter of sodium HUMATE solution and mix everything with the ground. Distance between plants leave 50-60 cm.
As soon as the plants take root, I tie them with twine to the trellis. I don’t pinch the main stem. Pour only warm water. Every 10-12 days the fed MOMORDICA, alternating organic and mineral fertilizers.
The plant branches well. I pinch the side shoots over the female flower, leaving two or three leaves above it. Shoots that do not have ovaries, cut out completely, so that they do not shade the plant and do not take away nutrition. Pests and diseases in the MOMORDICA until you notice it. It retains its bright green decorative appearance until the frost, pleasing the eye against the background of the outgoing heat of yellow-gray autumn.
I grow several varieties of MOMORDICA. In addition to varieties with classic shape and color, I would like to highlight the variety Japan long, the most productive, with large (more than 300 g), long (up to 50 cm) fruits. Also interesting is the Taiwan white variety with white fruits, which, although inferior in yield to other species, contains very little bitterness.
Here it is necessary to explain: the darker the color of the fruit, the more bitter it is. To get rid of bitterness, you need to remove the placenta, and wash the flesh in salt water. Mature fruits have a juicy, sweet pericarp that tastes like persimmon.
MOMORDICA fruits are good pickled, stewed and fried, and then served as a side dish to rice and meat dishes. And gourmets have even learned to make jam out of them.