Anyone Growing Bitter Melon?

gponder(7/South OR)August 7, 2004

My bitter melon plants, 7 different varieties, are slowing growing, flowering with only a couple of fruit out of about 25 plants. It's always a challenge to grow these guys.....hoping for a late Fall. Anyone else growing them????


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If you didn't start them early before planting out, Bitter Melon can take a long time to start fruiting in abundance. Just the nature of the plant.

Be sure they get plenty of water and be patient.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2004 at 9:16PM
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chaud111(z9A Vista, CA)

Yes, very slow growing. Mine are still under a foot. I wonder if they will set fruit at all. I don't see any flowers yet.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2004 at 5:55PM
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AliKuro(10 southern CA)

growing white bitter melons now, does well here in So Cal. worked into soil lots of compost plus manure, transplanted when about 6" tall, very important to cover soil with hay to keep moisture- plants where i didn't do this didn't grow at all- seemed to never get enough water... but now plants love the extra protection. good luck next year!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2004 at 6:40PM
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paperwhite(z10 AZ)

growing the regular kind, i planted the seeds in compost/soil mixture directtly in the ground in April, they have grown well and produced OK, i guess when the temps go down here they will produce better. Currently they are 8-9 ft tall and branched out well.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2004 at 10:57AM
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I'm growing the ilocano type. It's the tiny ones that actually taste more bitter than the regular ones. A must for some. If you think the regular ones are bitter these taste like medincine. But they look sooooo pretty, like christmas balls. No need to wrap in paper, harvest the frut in 3 days sometimes.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2004 at 12:45PM
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need somebody to send me a seeds of bitter melon in exchange.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2005 at 1:43AM
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dirt_dew(z9 az)

They need a LONG growing season.
I grow mine near trees so I can train them to grow up the trees. They can go up 25' high and 25' feet wide. They will even spread to another tree that is close enough. Mine seek the light toward the sunny side of the tree.
When they are ready they grow fast and the fruit grows very fast.
I like the aroma and the vines, flowers and fruits are very ornamental.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2005 at 12:51PM
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    Bookmark   May 29, 2006 at 8:33PM
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Larry, we start bitter melon in the greenhouse. It is then moved to the garden but inside a plastic tunnel. These beds are still under plastic but I REALLY should have removed the plastic today (Tuesday morning was the last time the forecast called for temperatures in the 30's). Today, it must be 80 degrees, I think all the chilly weather is pretty much past.

The melon is now to the top of their tomato cages and reaching for the pvc pipe holding the plastic film - another reason for the covering to go. My wife will begin to harvest the bitter melon about mid July. I don't care for bitter melon so it's really her vegetable.

It doesn't seem to like cool temperatures at all. The tunnel is on the south side of the greenhouse with a board fence a few feet farther. To the west is the carport attached to the garage. It couldn't be more sheltered and warm unless I put up something on the east. Or, we all moved a 1000 miles to the south.

The bitter melon has grown happily here for 3 or 4 years and we've a few different varieties this year. They all seem to be doing about the same: 30 - 36" tall.


    Bookmark   May 31, 2006 at 9:08PM
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Look for them in late July, August. As said above, they take a long time, say 120 days or so.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2006 at 10:46PM
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if you still need the bitter melon seeds let me know.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2006 at 12:46PM
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Glad I finally found this site, been growing Bitter Melon (Momordica Charantia) over the years, except this year.
I've planted mine in partial shade -down near New Orleans we got to protect tender plants in this heat, however -being semi-tropical area, it'd take off fast!
Found useful info on it's benefits, site with sales of Bitter Melon extract, said to help with diabetes, aids, cancer ,immune system and more, need to check with the doctor about this and I need to learn more.

I'd appreciate if someone would send me Bitter Melon seeds,I can trade or send SASE. trade or SASE.


    Bookmark   June 16, 2006 at 8:56PM
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Go down to member services and find your way to the Search Member's Exchange Pages feature.

There are currently 10 members who have bitter melon seeds to offer and five members list it as Momordica charantia.

Just let them know you're interested.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2006 at 12:17AM
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Hi! I planted this bitter melon this year and the plant got pretty big but I got all of three fruits the whole season. Let the last one go completely ripe to save the seeds. How do I get more fruits? Thanks in advance!

    Bookmark   October 12, 2006 at 11:46AM
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jimster(z7a MA)

Wanna see a beautiful display of bitter melon vines? Growing in Wisconsin? Follow the link and scroll down about 1/4 of the way. I don't know how productive they were. Maybe the grower, zeedman, will tell us.


Here is a link that might be useful: Bitter Melon and Other Things

    Bookmark   October 12, 2006 at 9:07PM
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Bitter melons has lots of male flowers compared to female ones.If there are not any female flowers there won't be any fruits. At the same time there should be enogh insects for pollination. You will have the same problem if there not pollinators.
Plants need moisture and heat ( like in summer) to produce fruits.
I am posting the pic. of female and male flower.Pic. at the top is that of female flower.Female flower has small fruit which is known as overy.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 9:52AM
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Nixonk, our bitter melons were highly variable in growth and production this year. But, that had everything to do with the fact that we grew 3 different (and new to us) varieties - all within the space of about 50 square feet. Dear Wife was not happy.

I think next year we will be going back to Medium Spindle, I believe it was. So, what IÂm saying is that you may not want to save the seed from the unproductive vine. Another variety, and there seems to be many, may do all that you are hoping for.


    Bookmark   October 14, 2006 at 11:29AM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Nixonk, I agree with Digit; probably the best solution to a higher yield is finding the best variety for your area. That's assuming, of course, that your soil is fertile, you get them in early, and the vines are not crowded or shaded.

Evergreen Y.H. & Kitazawa both carry a good selection of varieties, both O.P. & hybrid. And since the flavor varies widely (especially in the degree of bitterness), you may want to trial several to see which best suits your taste.

Just be aware that bees love the flowers; so if you intend to save seed from your favorite, you will have to cover the flowers & hand-pollinate. There are many excellent threads on this process, just search GW.

A little side note... while I still heartily recommend Evergreen for their extensive selection of Asian vegetables, I have had poor germination with some of their seed in recent years (including bitter melon). So plan accordingly, and order an extra pack to ensure a good stand... their prices are very reasonable, so this is not a hardship.

The variety Jimster refers to in my photo was once listed simply as "Thailand" by Evergreen Y.H., but has since been dropped. There is a closeup photo of the fruit in the "Unusual Vegetables" thread in the Vegetable Forum. It is small, rough-skinned, very bitter, and is best suited to pickling. But it is also _extremely_ vigorous (the plants in the trellis photo are 30 inches apart!), tolerates cooler temperatures, and bears early & heavily until frost.

Germination is less of an issue if the seed is started indoors. I plant my seeds in large Jiffy strips at about the time of my last frost, and put them into a solar greenhouse immediately after germination (they become leggy quickly under lights).

Mine don't seem to be too demanding in terms of soil fertility (I only fertilize lightly at the time of transplant) but the larger-fruited varieties may respond well to a shovel-full of manure per plant. Dig a hole where they will be planted, add the manure, fill in the hole with soil, and plant on top.

Gponder & Digit, I am very interested in your trials. How did each variety perform for you?

    Bookmark   October 14, 2006 at 8:31PM
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Zeedman, DW grew Ant Hybrid, Futo Spindle and Green Skin. She was not happy with the production of any compared to previous years growing another variety. Further, the Ant and Futo were very bitter. I'm sure I wouldn't like 'em since any bitter melon is too bitter for my tastes.

She claims that we originally got the seed from the one she's grown earlier from Jung's. That may be but I don't see that Jung's has bitter melon currently. Actually, I believe that they were Medium Spindle from Stokes but I could be wrong. It may be a little hard to figure this out with the seed now dispersed amongst DW's family. . .

site below is the darnedest thing . . . you can even buy a hat.

Here is a link that might be useful: The National Bitter Melon Council

    Bookmark   October 15, 2006 at 1:02PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

OMG, do those guys take themselves seriously! The fact that the website is so well contructed only makes it funnier... thanks for the good laugh, Digit. What is conspicuously absent is growing instructions & seed sources... perhaps because Goya is a company that sells ethnic foods.

I have seen photos of the "Ant" hybrid; it looks nearly identical to the "Thailand" OP variety that I grow. And judging by your description, they are also very similar in flavor.

There is someone in my local Asian community that grows a larger, productive bitter melon that could be "Medium Spindle". I've seen the fruit, they are 5-6" long, tapered, and shaded from bright green on the stem end to greenish-white on the blossom end. Haven't been able to hook up with him to find out the variety... I hope it's OP.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 2:32PM
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This year my Bitter melon did rather well.

Since we moved last year to a smaller home with
hard clay soil,
I planted this year in 10 gallon totes $3-99 at most places, drilled holes after tapping with duct tapes, reinforced the bottom with duct tape, added a handful of gypsum , added organic rose fertilizer and bulb fertilizer combo to MelÂs mix( close to, but not exact formula), gave few times fish emulsion.
In the heat of summer I wrapped the 10 gallon tote container with tall, kitchen bag, kept some news paper and cardboard with in the white kitchen bag to protect the tote from heat and drying.
The 10 gallon totes can last 2 seasons. My neighbor and guru in container gardening gives a coat of armor all externally and lines it internally with bubble wrap to prevent cracking of the plastic and insulation from heat .

Zeba crystals are on sale for 7 dollars including shipping at solutions. I added a couple of tablespoons for each plant.
The seeds are from evergreen 45 day variety. Though the fruits are small, the yield is pretty good.
Early in the season I used aluminum foilas a mulch, removed after a month.
I have a couple of friends ,diabetics, they are happy to have some leaves and fruits.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2006 at 11:32PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Gponder, you still out there? How did your bitter melon do for you? I'd be very interested in your final evaluation of the varieties you grew.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2006 at 11:33AM
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Does anyone know whether you can use sticks as a replacement for a tomato fence when the bitter melons are vining? I am trying to do it and it seems to be working but I'm afraid they will grow out to far and not have anywhere to curl their vines.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2008 at 12:55PM
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Hi Matt!can u tell me how to germinate bittermelon seeds?? i tried in peat pallets but of no use also in soil but no there any other way to try??

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 3:47PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Three things will increase bitter melon germination rate:
(1) Nicking the seed coat. Using a file, sandpaper, or blade (carefully!), just break the seed coat on the edge of the seed. Do not cut deeply, and do not damage the ends of the seed.
(2) Sterile soil, such as soil less seed starter or plug mix.
(3) Warm germination temps. Bitter melon germinates best at warm soil temps, about 80 F. degrees. Cooler than that, it will germinate more slowly, sporadically, or not at all.

Some have had success with pre-soaking for 24 hours, but I have had better results with nicked seed.

I have had a very high germination rate using sterile Fafard soil less mix in peat pots (Jiffy strips). Peat pellets, IMO, are next to useless for starting vegetables. I start by filling the peat strips with soil, and firming it. Then using a tweezers, I push the seed into the soil point-first (to 1/2 inch deep) and place the planted peat strips in a water-tight tray.

Add enough water to the tray to bottom-soak the soil & pots; depending upon how moist the soil was to start with, this usually takes 8-9 cups for a standard tray full of square peat strips. Boiled or distilled water is best, since it contains no spores that might cause damping off. If some of the pots are still dry after several hours, add water (a cup at a time) until all pots appear fully soaked. Let stand over-night, or for 24 hours. The next day, carefully pour off any water which has not been absorbed. Place the tray in a warm place to germinate... a shelf close to the ceiling might be the warmest place.

This same technique (minus the nicking of the seed) will work well with starting transplants of squashes, gourds, melons, beans, and other vegetables of tropical origins.

Bitter melon seedlings should be placed in direct sunlight immediately following germination, or they quickly become leggy. A solar greenhouse, hot bed, or window with southern exposure is best.

After growing & saving seed for several varieties of bitter melon from different sources, I have noticed that the germination rate can be much higher with home-saved seed than with commercial seed. For this reason, to avoid disappointment, I recommend planting about twice as much commercial seed as you need.

To save seed, allow the fruit used for seed to ripen fully on the vine, until it begins to split open. The easy way to clean the seeds: Spread them - jelly coating & all - on newspaper to dry. When fully dry, the seeds separate from the dried pulp easily, producing clean seed & leaving the dried pulp stuck to the paper.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 10:57PM
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thanks matt!! tat was tons of useful information...i appreciate for sparing ur time to help me out..wil try this out at once..thanks once u have any pictures of ur vines?

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 2:49PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Sorry, I'm not Matt. ;-)

Jimster had posted links to my bitter melon vines earlier in the thread, but the link now appears to be inoperative. Here's a couple photos of my bitter melon vines:

Bitter melon "Thailand" (small, but very bitter)

A Chinese hybrid sent to me in trade - it was very good!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 5:06PM
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I am sorry !! those are very huge u use any fertilisers?also usually how much time does it take for the plant to germinate and then to crop

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 3:50PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Neehadin, the vines in the photo were not fertilized. The soil in that location is very fertile, and beans & soybeans grew in that location previously. Some years I dig a shovel full of composted manure into a hole near the plants, where they can reach it as they grows.

Like many vegetables, bitter melon responds well if given space; the plants were 24 inches apart, and filled the trellis completely. This spacing works well for the fertile soil in my country garden, but on poorer soils (such as the land adjacent to my house, where much topsoil was scraped away) the vines were not as rampant, and could be spaced more closely. For them, I will dig in manure this year.

Because my growing season is so short, I always start the seeds indoors, as I mentioned above. The seeds germinate in anywhere from 7-14 days. After transplanting, the vines bear green fruit in about 80 days. In longer, warmer climates, the seeds could be planted directly into the ground.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 4:39PM
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I am posting some pics. of Bitter melons from my garden to introduce diff. varieties.

Pics. of Bitter melons.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 11:05AM
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    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 7:04PM
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Hi Chaman,

Beautiful pictures. What are the names of these varieties? Did you get seeds from Evergreen Seeds?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 7:40PM
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Seeds were bought from are all Indian variety.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 11:23PM
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Hi Zeedman!! i did ur procedure nd one of the two seeds sprouted..thanks a lot for the tip..

    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 12:47PM
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We have been growing bitter melon for several years.

They need a lot of water and very warm weather. Given these conditions, they grow very fast. We plant about 6 plants per pit.

Here is a link with a lot of information on growing bitter melon.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 8:29PM
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