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How to Grow Bitter Gourd (Karela)

Shipra Singh
Shipra Singh
Bitter Gourd Fruit
Bitter Gourd

Common name: Better known as “Karela” in North and East India, “Karli” in West India, and “Paval” and “Kakara” in South India. In some parts of the world, bitter gourd is called bitter melon.  

Scientifically, bitter gourd is a fruit, not vegetable.  

Scientific name: Momordica charantia L.  

Family: Cucurbitaceae 

Producing States: 

Bitter gourd is one of the widely grown vegetables in India.  

Bitter Gourd Varieties: 

  • Pusa Do Mausmi(released by IARI, New Delhi)  

  • Arka Harit (released by IIHR, Bangalore) 

  • Priya/VK-1 (selected from Kerala Agricultural University) 

  • Coimbatore Long (released by Agricultural Research Institute, Coimbatore) 

  • COBgoH(Hybrid)  

  • Pusa Vishesh (released by IARI, New Delhi)

  • MDU 1

  • Preethi

Climate Required: 

Bitter gourd cultivation is done chiefly in the warm season. This profitable crop loves hot climate with lots of humidity.  

Soil Required: 

Best soil: Well-drained, fertile soil featuring a pH of 5.5-6.7. The soil should be rich in organic matter like dried manure or compost.  

However, bitter gourd crop can tolerate any type of soil that has good drainage. Frost-free environment is preferred. Daytime temperature ranging from 24oC to 35oC is good.  

Soil temperature conducive for seed germination should be between 20oC and 25oC.  

Mode of Propagation: 

Transplanting and direct seeding.  

It is best to leave some vines in the field during harvesting. This will produce seeds, which continue to mature when left inside the gourd. The seeds are selected, washed, and then stored at a dry, cool area. This way, they stay viable for 2 to 3 years.   

You must leave a few bitter gourd fruits so that they attain complete maturity. These fruits are reserved for the next crop. When fruits mature fully, they break open automatically, releasing white or brown seeds. These seeds can be collected and used for sowing.  

Bitter Gourd Sowing Process: 

Soil preparation: Start with ploughing the soil to give it a fine tilth stage. Dig pits of size 30cm x 30cm x 30cm at a spacing of 2.0 x 1.5 m.  

Best time for sowing:  

  • For summer crop: January-March 

  • For monsoon crop: June-July (plains) and March-June (hills) 

Seed rate: 4-5 kg/ha 

Method of sowing: dibbling  

It is good to soak seeds in water for faster germination. Soak seeds in a solution of 25 ppm boron and 25-50 ppm GA for 24 hours.  

Pollination: 

Bitter gourd features insect pollination, preferably honey bees. In case bees are not present in your area, you must carry out manual pollination. Pick male flowers and transfer pollens to female flowers during active flowering stage at daytime.  

Irrigation Requirement:  

Give one irrigation before dibbling and another after a week.  

Drip irrigation is good. Spacing of inline lateral tubes should be 1.5 m.  

Weed management:  

Hoeing is required three times after bitter gourd cultivation for weed control. After the 15th day of sowing, spray 100 ppm (which is achieved by dissolving 1 ml Ethrel in 10 l of water) four times at weekly intervals.  

Fertilizers:  

Before the last soil ploughing, apply: 

  • Pseudomonas 2.5 kg/ha

  • Phosphobacteriaand Azospirillum0 kg/ha 

  • FYM 50 kg

  • Neem cake 100 kg  

After sowing, apply: 

  • FYM (Farm Yard Manure) 10 kg/pit

  • 100 g NPK (Nitrogen, Phophorus, Potassium) at a ratio of 6:12:12 per pit 

  • N 10 g/pit after 30 days of sowing

Pest & Diseases in Bitter Gourd 

Pests: 

  • Fruit flies, caterpillars, and beetles: For control, spray 30 EC Dimethoate 1 ml/l or 50 EC Malathion 1 ml/l, or 25 EC Methyl Demeton 1ml/l. 

  • Aphids: For control, use Imidachloprid5 ml/l. Use enough stickers like apsaTeepol, and others for better coverage and adhesion. 

  • Mites: Spray 18% SC Dicofol 2.5 ml/l of water.

Diseases: 

  • Downy Mildew: For control, spray Chlorothalonil or Mancozeb 2g/l two times at an interval of 10 days.

  • Powdery Mildew: For control, spray Carbendazim 0.5 g/l or Dinocap 1ml/l. 

Harvesting:  

Alternate-day harvesting begins when fruits are tender and very young. Be careful while picking so as not to damage vines. You must not let fruits mature on vines.  

Storage: 

Store harvested fruits in a cool condition for 3-4 days.  

Yield: 

Average yield is 60-100 q/ha. 

Bitter Gourd Uses: 

In homes, bitter gourd is used in the kitchen to prepare “sabzi” and pickles.  

Bitter gourd is well known for its medicinal uses.  

For diabetes: 

  • Chop leaves of bitter gourd.

  • Take two glasses of water. 

  • Take 6 tablespoons of the chopped leaves. 

  • Put leaves in water and boil them for about 15 minutes without covering the vessel. 

  • Let it cool. Then strain. 

  • Drink 1/3 cup of this ‘bitter gourd leaf concoction’ three times a day. 

Drinking this concoction helps to manage diabetes type 2 effectively. Drink this regularly for better control of your blood sugar.  

For arthritis, cholera, and diarrhea: 

Take 10-15 ml bitter gourd leaf juice during diarrhea, pain of arthritis, or the earliest stage of cholera.  

For respiratory problems: 

Paste of bitter gourd leaves mixed in an equal quantity basil (tulsi) leaves taken with honey every morning works as a preventive measure against respiratory problems.  

For burns, boils, skin breakouts, and burning sensation in feet and hands: 

Apply dry powder of bitter gourd leaves topically on the affected areas. For burning sensations, apply juice of bitter gourd topically on the affected areas.  

Bitter Gourd Nutrition Value:  

1 Cup (100g) cooked and boiled (without added salt) bitter gourd contains: 

  • Calories: 23

  • Total fat: 0.2 g

  • Sodium: 7 mg

  • Potassium: 396 mg

  • Total carbs: 5 g

  • Dietary fiber: 2.5 g

  • Sugar: 2 g

  • Protein: 1 g

  • Vitamin C: 68% of daily value 

  • Calcium: 1% of daily value

  • Vitamin B6 and Magnesium: 5% of daily value 

  • Iron: 3% of daily value

Bitter Gourd Health Benefits:  

  • Bitter gourd harbors p-insulin or polypeptide-p, which is an insulin-like compound. It controls blood sugar naturally. 

  • Juice of bitter gourd is anti-inflammatory in nature. It aids in reducing bad cholesterol levels. 

  • Its rich folic acid and iron content keeps heart healthy and decreases risk of stroke and heart attack.

  • It has powerful antioxidants and vitamins A and C that prevent premature aging of skin, reduce wrinkles and acne, help to treat psoriasis and eczema (skin diseases), and safeguard skin from ultra violet rays of the sun.

  • Biotin, zinc, and vitamins A and C give shine to hair. Trichologists recommend applying juice of bitter gourd on scalp to reduce graying of hair, control hair loss, treat split ends, smoothen rough hair, treat dandruff and itchiness of scalp. 

  • Bitter gourd juice helps in hangover due to alcohol consumption. The juice heals the liver and cleanses the bowel. As per a study in the International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition, bitter gourd contains specific compounds that help to prevent liver failure by improving enzyme activities of the organ. It also enhances bladder functions. 

  • The low calorie, fat, and carb content of this fruit keeps you fuller for longer. This helps in weight loss. A 2010 report published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal states that bitter gourd extracts help to dislocate fat cells in the human body and prevent formation of new fat cells. 

  • The fruit strengthens immunity, prevents indigestion, and allergies. 

  • Bitter gourd possesses anti-tumor and anti-carcinogen properties. It is found to decrease risk of cancers of the cervix, breast, and prostate. 

  • Vitamin A and beta-carotene present in bitter gourd helps to prevent cataract and other problems, and keeps eyesight strong. 

CAUTION:  

Please be moderate in drinking bitter gourd juice. Excess consumption can lead to diarrhea and abdominal pain. Pregnant women must not take too much juice of this fruit. It can activate the uterus and cause pre-term labor.  

Doctors recommend only upto 30 ml of juice per day.  

(Disclaimer: Please consult your doctor before starting any kind of natural remedy. This article does not provide medical advice.)  

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