The cundeamor (Momordica charantia) also known as bitter melon, is a species of tropical and subtropical vine, widely cultivated in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. It has an edible fruit widely used in salty recipes.
This plant is a member of the cucurbit family, which includes pumpkin, watermelon, melon and cucumbers. Cundeamor can be grown very similarly to cucumbers or melons, but requires at least three to four months of hot, humid weather to ripen.
The taste of this fruit is really bitter, this is due to the alkaloid momordicin and the darker the variety, the more intense its flavor. The cundeamor in addition to being consumed in various dishes, also has medicinal properties, is considered a hypoglycemic.
Characteristics of cundeamor
The cundeamor has deeply lobed leaves and produces vines 4 to 5 meters long if they are not pruned. The fruits are oblong and with an exterior that can vary from smooth to warty, they can measure up to 20 cm long. The fruit changes color, from green to yellow and then to orange as it ripens.
The pulp or interior of the fruit has a watery and crunchy texture, similar to a cucumber. When cut, it has hollow areas surrounded by a thin layer of pulp, with a central seed cavity. Each plant produces about 10 to 12 fruits or perhaps a few more.
This fast-growing vine is usually grown on a stand that is at least 1.8m high and between 1.2m to 1.8m away. Sow the seeds in holes about 1.25 cm deep and spaced 30 cm apart. Place two seeds in each hole, these will germinate approximately 8 to 10 days.
Choose a warm place where you get sun at least 6 hours a day. Plant the cundeamor in a soil rich in fertilizer and well drained with a pH ranging between 5.5 and 6.7. Prepare the grow beds before planting by adding manure and aged manure. This plant can also tolerate sandy or loamy loam soils, as long as it has good drainage.
Plague and diseases
Cundeamor can be attacked by some pests, one of them is the cucumber beetle. This animal is a carrier of bacterial wilt disease that causes vines to collapse. To combat them, spray adult beetles with rotenone or a pyrethrum-based insecticide.
Fruit flies can also attack cundeamor and are linked to mosaic virus and powdery mildew, spreading fruit rot. Prevent flies from reaching the fruits by covering them with paper bags secured with twine or rubber bands or wrapping them with newspaper when the fruits are 2 to 8 cm long.
The diseases that most affect this plant are fungal, those caused by fungi and bacteria. To avoid them it is important to increase the air circulation of the vines and not allow the fruits to rest directly on the moist soil.
Uses of cundeamor
Cundeamor can be stuffed (often with pork or shrimp), also used pickled or curry and served with meat or soup. The fruit can be combined with different flavors to enhance its characteristics, the most used are: garlic, chili, coconut milk, black beans, among others.
This fruit is used in traditional Chinese medicine and alternative medicine to treat type 2 diabetes. It is also a popular remedy for treating high blood pressure. Nutritionally it has beta-carotene, potassium, calcium, high amounts of fiber, phosphorus and vitamins C, B1, B2 and B3.
Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.