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  • Writer's pictureTony Taurone

White Japanese Bittermelon

Also titled Jyunpaku Okinawan pure white.



Overview:

  • Plant Type: Annual Vine

  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun

  • Water Requirements: Moderate to high

  • Soil Requirements: Well-draining, fertile soil

  • Mature Size: 8-10 inches (20-25 cm) long fruit, 6-8 feet (1.8-2.4 meters) long vines Bloom Time: Summer

  • Special Features: White flesh, with a bitter taste, high in nutrients, heat-tolerant

  • Maintenance: Moderate

  • Hardiness Zone: JYUNPAKU OKINAWAN bitter melon is an annual plant that grows best in warm temperatures and is often grown as a summer crop in USDA hardiness zones 9-11.

My fruits here in North Texas were 6-8 inches long and were beautifully white when younger. Vines ran over 10ft long and are very flexible to reroute.


Origin:

The white bitter melon (Momordica charantia) is native to the Indian subcontinent but is now widely cultivated in many parts of the world, including Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. It is believed to have been introduced to China and other parts of Southeast Asia around 600 years ago and has since become a popular vegetable in those regions. White bitter melon is also known by other names such as bitter gourd, bitter squash, and African cucumber. It is often used in traditional medicine for its various health benefits, and its bitter taste is considered a desirable flavor in many Asian cuisines.


Additional Notes: Bitter melon is a popular variety in Asian cuisine and is known for its bitter taste and high nutrient content. The fruit is best when harvested young, and can be enjoyed fresh or used in recipes such as stir-fries, soups, and curries. They are alarmingly bitter and there is a mountain of research proclaiming the benefits of the bitterness, however, if you need to tone it down a bit, you can blanch them prior to use and get some of the bitterness off.


The leaves are reputedly also a health benefit used in teas. All parts of the plant are said to have great impact on blood sugar levels and digestive health. Be sure to do your research before using this as a health supplement.


They are relatively easy to grow but may require some training and pruning to keep the vines under control. Bitter melon is a heat-loving plant and can tolerate hot temperatures, but they may require some shade in extremely hot weather. Regular watering and fertilization can help promote healthy growth and high yields.

Once the fruit has reach over-ripe it begins to turn orange and if left on the vine will open up exposing the seeds to fall. The seeds are contained in a red covering that surprisingly isn't bitter at all! The seeds can be removed from their slimy covers and dried to sprout next year. When ready to germinate the seeds it's best to scratch them with a file or other tool to break the surface and allow water to soak through.


Over all this was such an interesting plant. The fruits were so unique and almost fak looking, caught a lot of eyes at the farmers market. The leaves had a very particular smell as well. I would suggest growing just as an interest factor and if you are in the business of selling rare fruits, bitter melons can be pricy depending where you are and these are rare among them. Might not be something I grow every year but I will grow them every few to collect and save new viable seeds.

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