18 responses to “Momordica balsamina”

  1. Chris

    Interestingly, we eat these in Hawai`i – the fruit when green, the young leaves in stir fry.

    Reputed to be particularly beneficial for kidney and liver function, though I have nothing to back that up with.


  2. Hallie Anderson

    Bitter melon is used in Chinese cooking also. Which is probably how it got into Hawaiian cuisine.

  3. Denis

    I’ve tried this oddity several times, but I don’t think it likes the climate here in northwestern Oregon. Or I’m doing it wrong, not sure which.

  4. mary bond

    Mary Bond Eek! I love your very colorful photos but what a shock to see what I thought might be a stinkbug.
    I recently read a long article in the March 12/18 issue of the New Yorker all about stinkbugs, what a crawly feeling that is.
    The article is called Home Invasion (when stinkbugs move in) by Kathryn Schulz. Makes me so glad I live in North Vancouver.

    1. Nette

      I read that article too! They are moving West! A nightmare….

  5. Marilyn Brown

    Long ago we had an elderly Chinese friend who used the unripe bitter melon in a delicious soup. I sometimes bought them, not for cooking, but to put on our table where the warm afternoon sun fell on them. I loved to watch the melon ripen to gorgeous deep yellow and then open to show the brilliant and shiny seeds. This is a wonderful picture — the stinkbug is a very handsome fellow !

  6. Nadia

    Love this plant

  7. michael aman

    Maybe a paragraph should be added to the above for the sake of liability. Readers mention eating the entire fruit when immature. But the rind and seeds of the mature fruit are poisonous? Where is the line when we’ve gone from edible and delicious to toxic? Any chance we’re applying the common name ‘bitter melon’ to two different plants?

    1. Pat Collins

      Perhaps they may be toxic when raw, they are usually cooked before eating. I think the whole fruit of both M. charantia and M. balsamina are eaten in many different places. The PlantZAfrica article linked above has “There are conflicting reports on the toxicity of the fruit, both green and ripe.”

    2. Dominic Janus

      Thanks for bringing this up! I did the best I could to clarify this in a comment below.

  8. Satish Babu

    Thanks for the pictures and information on Momordica.

    In the Kerala region of South-West India, bitter gourd is a highly-regarded vegetable, thought to strengthen the immune system besides providing vitamins and trace minerals required for humans. It is consumed fresh/green and never as the ripe fruit.

    There are no reports of the rind (nor seeds) being poisonous. As this is a commonplace vegetable here, found in every shop, I wonder if this information is really true. It’s possible that what we use is a slightly different cultivar (Momordica charantia).

  9. 3Point141

    Thanks to Daniel Mosquin and his UBC Botanical Garden team for selecting my picture.
    That is highly appreciated.

    Here in Florida, at the advent of early summer, these plants spring up near fences, shrubs and sometimes on undisturbed grounds.
    They are well propagated by the dried airborne seeds and by our avian friends.

  10. Midu Hadi

    Karela! 😀 Tastes amazing when sliced and deep fried until crisp.

  11. Dominic Janus

    Here’s a little clarification on the edibility of these fruits:

    Although bitter in taste, it seems that the immature fruits are actually entirely edible (https://uses.plantnet-project.org/en/Momordica_balsamina_(PROTA)). From what I can gather, the outer rind of adult fruits is indeed poisonous (https://books.google.ca/books?id=-J-YxItyrHEC&pg=PA217&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false).

    There could be some confusion between this species and Momordica charantia which can also go by the name of bitter gourd. Momordica charantia is most commonly known as bitter melon and its fruits closely resemble those of Momordica balsamina. Momordica charantia doesn’t seem to have any poisonous properties and has a much richer set of culinary uses. Apparently its fruits are typically consumed when younger and greener (another possible commonality between these two species).

    1. Pat Collins

      If the toxin is a lectin won’t it be completely deactivated as a poison when cooked and the protein part is denatured? Like those found in kidney beans, for example.

  12. Pat Collins

    The uncertainty in the PlantZAfrica article about the origin of the generic name appears to be because of a William Peter Uprichard Jackson who wrote in “Origins and Meanings of Names of South African Plant Genera” (University of Cape Town, 1990) of the derivation from the Latin mordeo “This explanation is given by all my references, but I remain doubtful – why the duplicated mo?”.

    Presumably the author did not check a good Latin dictionary.

    The Oxford English Dictionary ( http://www.oed.com ) has the etymology as:
    post-classical Latin momordica a balsam apple (A. M. Brasavola Examen Simplicium Medicamentorum (1536), f. 118) < classical Latin momordī , first person singular perfect indicative of mordēre to bite (see mordant adj.) + -ica -ic suffix, on account of the appearance of the seed of the fruit)

    The Lewis & Short "A Latin Dictionary" agrees with the OED on this word momordi as the first person singular perfect indicative of mordēre.

    Archive.org has a copy or two of the book that the OED considers the first to use the name Momordica: Antonio Musa Brasavola "Examen omnium simplicium medicamentorum, quorum in officinis usus est…" (1536)

    Balsam apple has its first known use in English (according to the OED) in a translation from the Brabant dialect of the Low Countries:
    1578 H. Lyte tr. R. Dodoens Niewe Herball 441 By the name of Balsamine, you must now understand two sorts of apples. The one is called the Male Balsem, or Balme apple. The other is called the female Balsem apple.

    The name Balsamines came from a text in Latin written by a Bavarian in 1542, Leonhardt Fuchs "De historia stirpium commentarii insignes…" :
    Duo Balsamines genera damus. Primam, quam nos certioris discriminis gratia marem fecimus, Ligures Padani Balsamina vocat, Hierosolymitanu pomum Hetruria, Mirabile Gallia, vulgus Italorum Charantiam quonia septi modo in hortis fenestrisque per cancellos opere topiario facile digeratur.
    If I understand correctly they were being commonly grown (or grown by vulgar people) in Italy on trellises under glass at that time. They were grown for the medicinal parts and were called Balsamines because they were equal to Telephium as a wound herb.

    So we can say that both parts of the name Momordica balsamina were coined in post-classical Latin (from classical Latin roots) from (or before) the first half of the Sixteenth Century.

Leave a Reply