Though harsh in taste, bitter gourd (Karela) has an important place in traditional cuisine and medicine. Known as bitter melon in many countries, it belongs to the family of cucurbitaceae, like squash and cucumber.
Bitter gourds can be divided into three basic groups — the small triangular one, the dark green long one and the light green fleshy one that is less bitter. There are about 300 varieties found around the world.
A seasonal plant that thrives in hot, humid climate, bitter gourd grows best in fertile, well-drained soil, which is enriched with organic matter such as compost. Direct seeding is the common practice for this gourd. Sow two or three seeds per hole at a depth of 2 cm and space holes 40 to 60 cm apart. Seedlings will emerge in six to seven days. When they have four leaves, thin out to one healthy plant.
If you plan to grow them in pots, a 40-cm pot can take care of two vines. It grows fast and vines need support two weeks after planting. When the plants start putting out lateral branches, leave two or three and remove the rest. Regular watering with plenty of water is essential for its growth.
Flowers start appearing in 45 to 50 days.
The plant is monoecious and have male and female flowers. Male flowers are more in number and female flowers have a fat section between the flower and the vine stem.
Pollination is done by insects. If there are no insects around, the female flowers wither.
If that happens, you can hand pollinate by picking a male flower and tapping the pollen into the centre of the female flowers. This should be done in the mornings when the flowers are open. When the plant begins to bear fruit, apply top dressing every two weeks regularly.
Mature gourds will be ready to be picked within three months. A well-cared for vine will bear fruits for the next six months.
For centuries, bitter gourd has been used as a remedy for a range of health conditions, especially Type 2 diabetes.
Scientists at the World Vegetable Centre, Taiwan, have been experimenting with 280 varieties of bitter gourd to crossbreed a super version with maximum anti-diabetic effect. Many studies suggest that bitter gourd has a role in glycemic control of diabetes.

Early Cultivation of Bitter Gourd (Karela)

Bitter Gourd (Bitter Melon or Karela, کریلا) is a cucumber like nutritional value. This vegetable if cultivate on time the farmers could get good monetary benefits.
  • The agronomists advised to the farmers to start early cultivation (agiti kasht، اگیتی کاشت) of the bitter gourd from 15th of February to mid of April for better harvest.
  • They advised to the farmers to choose “Faisalabad Long” variety of  bitter gourd to get some bumper crop in Pakistani Punjab. Other people can consult local agriculture extension.
  • The farmers should choose good sprout ratio of seeds. 3.50Kg  to 3.75Kg per acre of seeds soaked with good herbicide.
  •  The herbicide on seeds should not be exceed 2kg to 3kg per acre.
  • The Silt Loom Soil (myra zameen, میرا مٹی ) with the pH less than 7 i.e. basic nature is very good for bitter gourd cultivation.
  • The soil should also be with good water drainage qualities.
(Juicing for Health) The bitter melon (also known as bitter gourd or Karela (کریلا) in urdu) looks like a cucumber but with ugly gourd-like bumps all over it.
As the name implies, this vegetable is a melon that is bitter.  There are two varieties of this vegetable:  One grows to about 20 cm long, is oblong and pale green in color.  The other is the smaller variety, less than 10 cm long, oval and has a darker green color.
Both varieties have seeds that are white when unripe and that turn red when they are ripe.  The vegetable-fruit turn reddish-orange when ripe and becomes even more bitter.
Bitter gourd thrives in hot and humid climates, so are commonly found in Asian countries and South America.
Westerners may not be so used to bitter melons, so may find them more difficult to consume.  But if you can generally take bitter taste, you may be able to take this too.  Try it, at least for all its healthful virtues
Nutritional Benefits
Bitter gourds are very low in calories but dense with precious nutrients.  It is an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, and B3, C, magnesium, folic acid, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, and has high dietary fiber.  It is rich in iron, contains twice the beta-carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, and twice the potassium of a banana.
Bitter melon contains a unique phyto-constituent that has been confirmed to have a hypoglycemic effect called charantin.  There is also another insulin-like compound known as polypeptide P which have been suggested as insulin replacement in some diabetic patients.
Health Benefits
Few other fruits/vegetables offer medicinal properties for these ailments like bitter melon does.
Blood disorders:   Bitter gourd juice is highly beneficial for treating blood disorders like blood boils and itching due to toxemia.  Mix 2 ounces of fresh bitter gourd juice with some lime juice.  Sip it slowly on an empty stomach daily for between four and six months and see improvement in your condition.
Cholera:  In early stages of cholera, take two teaspoonfuls juice of bitter gourd leaves, mix with two teaspoonfuls white onion juice and one teaspoonful lime juice.  Sip this concoction daily till you get well.
Diabetes mellitus:  Bitter melon contains a hypoglycemic compound
(a plant insulin) that is highly beneficial in lowering sugar levels in blood and urine.  Bitter melon juice has been shown to significantly improve glucose tolerance without increasing blood insulin levels.
Energy:  Regular consumption of bitter gourd juice has been proven to improve energy and stamina level.  Even sleeping patterns have been shown to be improved/stabilized.
Eye problems:  The high beta-carotene and other properties in bitter gourd makes it one of the finest vegetable-fruit that help alleviate eye problems and improving eyesight.
Hangover:  Bitter melon juice may be beneficial in the treatment of a hangover for its alcohol intoxication properties.  It also help cleanse and repair and nourish liver problems due to alcohol consumption.
Immune booster:  This bitter juice can also help to build your immune system and increase your body’s resistance against infection.
Piles:  Mix three teaspoonfuls of juice from bitter melon leaves with a glassful of buttermilk. Take this every morning on empty stomach for about a month and see an improvement to your condition.  To hasten the healing, use the paste of the roots of bitter melon plant and apply over the piles.
Psoriasis:  Regular consumption of this bitter juice has also been known to improve psoriasis condition and other fungal infections like ring-worm and athletes feet.
Respiratory disorders:  Take two ounces of fresh bitter melon juice and mix with a cup of honey diluted in water.  Drink daily to improve asthma, bronchitis and pharyngitis.
Toxemia:  Bitter gourd contains beneficial properties that cleanses the blood from toxins.  Sip two teaspoonfuls of the juice daily to help cleanse the liver.  Also helpful in ridding jaundice for the same reasons.
Consumption Tips
Choose unripe bitter melons that are firm, like how you would a cucumber.  Avoid those that have turned orange or have soft spots.  Ripe bitter melons can be excessively bitter.
Store bitter melons in the vegetable bin in the refrigerator which has the right temperature.  It should keep for three to four days.
Keeping bitter melons at room temperature or with other fruits and vegetables will hasten the melon to ripen and become more bitter, due to the emission of ethylene gas.
Clean your bitter melon under cold running water and brush with a soft vegetable brush.  To prepare, slice the melon length-wise and scoop out the seeds.  To lessen the bitter flavor, soak it in salt water for about half an hour before juicing/cooking.
The smaller variety is more bitter than the bigger one.  To help make bitter gourd juice more palatable, take it with honey, or add carrot or apple juice.  For diabetics, drink the juice with green apple juice.
Do not consume more than two ounces of bitter melon, or more than two melons a day.  Excessive consumption may cause mild abdominal pain or diarrhea.  Diabetics taking hypoglycemic drugs will need to alter the dosage of their drugs if they consume bitter melon on a regular basis.  Please consult your doctor.
Pregnant women should avoid taking too much bitter gourd or its juice as it may stimulate the uterus that may lead to preterm labor.

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