Three members of the genus Momordica are sometimes encountered in Florida gardens where they do very well. These are Chinese cucumber (M. cochinchinensis), balsam pear (M. charantia), and balsam apple (M. balsamina). All these cucurbits are fruits of annual running vines with near-round, deeply notched leaves. They are quite popular in oriental countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam, and China.
Description and Use
Chinese cucumber fruit are cucumber-shaped, 6 to 8 inches long, dark to yellowish-green, and very warty (bumpy) on the outside surface. The hollow center contains several watermelon-shaped, irregularly-etched seeds covered with a scarlet pulp. The fleshy portion of the fruit is the edible part and is mainly cooked in soups.
The balsam pear, which is also called bitter melon, is 4 to 6 inches long, oblong, and pointed with warty furrows extending lengthwise. When fully ripe, it splits into three divisions. The immature fruit is boiled as a vegetable. The related balsam apple has a smaller, 3-inch long, orange-colored, egg-shaped fruit that is used in a similar manner.
Momordica production in Florida gardens should be similar to production of cucumbers. Allow 3 to 4 months from seeding to harvest. Provide ample space or a trellis for the vines that sometimes reach 10 feet or more in length.