Bitter gourd, commonly known as bitter melon or Balsam pear, has been grown in the humid tropics of Asia for centuries. The odd-looking, elongated fruit has bumpy skin and vanilla-scented flowers. A source of iron, ascorbic acid and vitamin C, bitter gourd is better when eaten young. It is often liberally salted before cooking to remove any bitterness.
Size: Up to 10 inches long
Sunlight requirements: Full sun
Water requirements: Keep constantly moist
Soil requirements: Rich, moisture-retentive, free-draining soil
When to plant: In temperate zones, sow in early spring under glass at 68 degrees Fahrenheit; in humid zones, sow at the start of the rainy season outdoors in hills.
Where to plant: In areas with sunshine and high humidity
When to harvest: About two months after sowing, when fruits are approximately 1-inch long and yellow-green in color
Product storage: Store in a cool, dark place for several days; can be kept in refrigerator crisper for four weeks