Bitter Gourd – Precautions and Side Effects:

Like any other fruits and vegetables, you need to make sure that you consume the required quantity in order to ensure that you are getting the right amount of nutrients.

However, when consuming bitter gourd, you need to keep in mind these few notes:

  1. Pregnant mothers should avoid bitter gourd throughout pregnancy as it stimulates excess menstrual bleeding; should also be avoided when breastfeeding.
  2. Bitter gourd reduces blood sugar level, so:
    1. Should be avoided pre and post-surgical procedures
    2. Should not be taken or consumed with medication to lower blood sugar
  3. Excess consumption of bitter gourd can cause anaemia, a condition in which there is a deficiency in red cells or of haemoglobin the blood.

Adding Bitter Gourd To Your Diet:

The sight of fresh fruits and vegetables is so tempting, especially when they are organically grown in home gardens. In Sri Lanka, we refer to bitter gourd as ‘Karawila’, not to be confused with ‘Karawala’ which refers to a variety of dried fish. It is cooked as a vegetable curry, eaten fried with your meals instead of papadam (my personal favorite!!!!) or as a salad with chopped onions, tomatoes and green chillies. Botanically, bitter gourd belongs to the ‘Cucurbitaceae family’ and is closely related to zucchini, pumpkin, squashe, melons and cucumber. It is a tropical fruit and is cultivated around the world, mainly throughout Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Apart from its valuable medicinal contribution, bitter gourd makes an excellent dish to be added at the table! If you like your meat, you can maybe make stir fry with some pork or even creative with some chicken instead, it can also be enjoyed steamed, baked, even hollowed and stuffed with fillings of your choice. Bitter gourd can also be juiced and added to other fruits and vegetables for a nutrient packed beverage.

How to Grow Bitter Gourd in Your Garden:

If you’ve decided to grow bitter gourd in your garden, you may find the following tips helpful. Here is what you need to keep in mind:

  1. Bitter gourd is a vining plant and can grow up to 16 feet if not regularly pruned. A healthy plant can bear up to 12 fruits given the correct growing conditions.
  2. Make sure you prepare your growing beds well in advance with at least 6 hours of sunshine daily. Plough the soil and add organic compost or manure and leave it, this will allow the soil to adapt and prepare itself by absorbing the required nutrients for a healthy harvest.
  3. When ready to plant your seeds, make sure a hole is half an inch deep (1/2 inch = 1.25cm) and each hole should be at least 12 inches (30cm) apart. This would allow more space for your plants to grow well. Tip: Seeds will germinate in 8 to 10 days.
  4. Training your plant to grow on a trellis comes with the following advantages:
    1. It allows you to keep an eye for bugs as well as reduce the risk of diseases.
    2. Depending on the height of your trellis, pinch/prune away the growing tip which will help stimulate a fuller growth.
    3. Fruit grown from a trellis will grow longer and straighter than those grown on the ground
  5. Water your plant regularly, maintaining an even moist soil at all time, essential for fruit growth and development.
  6. You can grow bitter gourd along with pumpkins, squash, beans and corn. Do not grow them with potatoes and herbs.
  7. If growing bitter gourd in a container, make sure it’s big enough to contain at least 5 gallons of soil and proper drainage is important.
  8. Just like any other plants, bitter gourd is susceptible to pests and diseases. Attacking pests carry diseases that can cause your plant to rot and collapse. To avoid all this, you can prepare your own organic insecticide/pesticide. Here is one that will work wonders:
    Homemade Garlic Insecticide Spray:
    • 2 whole bulbs and puree them in a blender or food processor with a small amount of water.
    • Let the mixture sit overnight, then strain it into a jar, adding 1/2 cup of vegetable oil (optional), 1 teaspoon of mild liquid soap, and enough water to fill the jar.
    • To use this homemade insecticide, use 1 cup of mixture with 1 quart of water and spray liberally on infested plants.
    • The pungent smell of garlic will surely keep pests and insects away.
  9. Fruits are ready for harvesting when they have reached maturity; this means when the bloom has fallen off and when the fruit is 4 to 6 inches long. Keep the fruit too long, will over-ripen and become yellow (even red) and taste even more bitter! So make sure you harvest them in time and enjoy them.
  10. If you’re planning to grow bitter gourd in the next season, collect the seeds that have fallen off from over ripen fruits, sort, wash, dry and store till next time!!!

There it is folks, everything you need to know about bitter gourd! If you already have them growing in your garden, please share pictures and tips on trellising and harvesting that have worked well for you.

Until the next time, happy gardening!

Mariam Peterson
Author: Mariam Peterson
Salut! My name is Mariam Peterson but I prefer if you called me Mary, much easier for everyone to remember.
A quick intro about me, I am a gardening enthusiast with a passion for lush foliage plants, unique flowering plants and one of my biggest dreams is to have my OWN organic garden.
Some of you might have heard of "Mary's Garden Solutions", a business I started in 2017 where I offer services and creative solutions related to all matters gardening. It is an honor to be able to share my gardening skills with you! And I eagerly look forward to reading from you and answering all your questions. Happy Gardening!
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