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As the month of June draws to an end, we prepare ourselves to welcome July! With high hopes that this month carries with it good news as we enter the second half of 2019!!!

Welcome, everyone to our June Edition of Home Gardener with Mums In Colombo, your friendly guide to eating and living healthy, in the most Sri Lankan way possible! 

This month’s issue I am afraid, most of you will not be able to handle it, because it is going to be ‘Bitter’!!! Yes, in fact, everything about this month’s issue is going to be bitter, because I am going to be spilling the truth about ‘Momordica Charantia’, also known by its other name ‘Bitter Gourd’!!! 

You may have noticed that in all my issues over the last couple of months, I have been focusing on fruits and vegetables that play a major role in keeping you healthy and disease free, and I am happy to say that this month’s issue is no exception. So, if you are still in doubt about eating your vegetables, I think now would be the best time to make a slight diet change! Don’t you think? But have no fear, keep reading what I write and I will make sure to throw in a few recipes you could try out!

So without further delays, let’s learn the Bitter Truth about Bitter Gourd!!!

What Do We Know About Bitter Gourd?

This is what we know so far, and I am positive that most of you will agree with me that bitter gourd helps with regulating your blood sugar! Yes? Ok… But what you don’t know, is that, just like any other fruits and vegetables I have been featuring for the last couple of months, bitter gourd is packed with nutrients, and when I say packed, I mean this fruit is rich in essential ingredients that your body needs in order to keep functioning as normal as possible. So the next time you head to the market to get some, here is what you are consuming per 100g serving:

Calories

20 kcal

Carbohydrates

4g

Fibre

2g

Vitamin C

93%

Vitamin A

44%

Folate

17%

Potassium

8%

Zinc

5%

Iron

4%

So as you can now clearly see that bitter gourd is rich in Vitamins A and C and both are essential in bone formation, tissue repairing, disease prevention and last but not least, boosting your immune system. But that is not all, keep reading to find out what this little spiky fruit can actually benefit you.

 

Next: Health Benefits of Bitter Gourd


Health Benefits of Bitter Gourd:

The most interesting part of this edition is when I put together the most relevant health benefits of my monthly topic, here are some that you would find very interesting. But first of, let’s just clarify something, ok? You may have noticed that I referred to bitter gourd as a fruit and not a vegetable. How many of you knew this? No… Well in this case, please allow me to enlighten you.

In botanical terms, a fruit is defined as a seed-bearing structure that develops from the ovary of a flowering plant. In this instance, bitter gourd, tomatoes, apples, bananas, oranges and many more, are fruits. Vegetables are all the other plants, roots (carrots, potatoes), leaves (lettuce, cabbage) and stems (celery, broccoli). So now that we have that cleared out, let’s get back to our program, shall we?

  1. Diabetes Treatment and Blood Sugar Management
    Bitter gourd is known to be one of the most potent fruits when it comes to managing and treating diabetes mellitus. Its components such as Alkaloids and Charantin act as hypoglycemic agents by reducing blood sugar levels in the body.
    Caution: Avoid consumption if taking medicines to lower blood sugar.
  2. Immunity Enhancer
    When you include bitter gourd in your diet, you help your body ward off diseases and infectious viruses and chances of recovery are higher and quicker. This bitter fruit is rich in antioxidants (Vitamin C) which attack free radicals in the body and eliminate harmful compounds that cause a number of ailments.
  3. Sharper Vision
    Not only are carrots good for your eye-sight as it turns out that bitter gourd are also responsible for your 20/20 vision. Flavanoids contained in bitter gourd, namely alpha and beta carotede, lutein and zeaxhanthin, act together to enhance your eyesight and night vision as well as decelerate macular degeneration.
  4. Asthma Relief
    Here is some good news for Asthmatics!!! Bitter gourd is naturally anti-histaminic, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral, all of which aid in maintaining a good respiratory health when consumed as a food supplement, and also help reduce symptoms in certain respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis and hay fever.
  5. Treatment for Skin Conditions/strong>
    Bitter gourd has been used for centuries in traditional medicine in the treatment of skin conditions. The antifungal and antibacterial properties found in this fruit are believed to treat infectious skin diseases such as ringworm and scabies. Treatment includes applying the extracted juice to the affected area to reduce swelling and irritation.
  6. Cancer Prevention
    Studies shows that bitter gourd contains compounds with cancer fighting properties; which could be effective against stomach, colon, lung, nasopharynx (the area located behind your nose at the back of your throat) and breast cancer cells.
  7. Promotes Good Digestion and Weight Loss
    Bitter gourd is low in calories but high in fiber, so if you are planning to follow a weight loss diet, then you might want to consider adding it in at least one meal. Did you know that consuming foods high in fiber reduces hunger and appetite? This is because fiber passes through the digestive very slowly keeping you feeling full for a very long time.

 

Next: Bitter Gourd – Precautions and Side Effects


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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