Momordica Charantia L

Kingdom: Plantae Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida Dicotyledons
Subclass: Dilleniidae
Order: Violales
Family: Cucurbitaceae Cucumber family
Genus: Momordica L. momordica
Species: Momordica charantia L. balsampear

Via Tropilab

Common name: ampalaya, pomme de merveille, pomo balsamo, balsamini longa, muop dang, tsuru reishi, bittergourd, bitter melon, balsam pear, sopropo, arsorossie, ku gua foo, pare, peria, karela, balsamina, balsamapfel, mara.
Family: cucurbitaceae (gourd family).

Also known as Chinese bitter melon; this tropical vine is a tender perennial.
The fruit is edible when harvested green and cooked. The taste is bitter.

Bitter melon has twice the potassium of bananas and is also rich in vitamin A and C.

Pare is a monoecious climber with dark green, deeply lobed leaves with hairs on it. The dioecious flowers are yellow and the fruits are oblong and lumpy with a light green to greenish-white, waxy skin.

After posting my mystery plant photos two days ago, I felt... incomplete. Not only did I still not know exactly what the plant was (although I knew it was goya and, as Bill commented on my previous post, I knew it was in the cucurbit family, I didn't know the specific variation), but I was also disappointed with the photos. It turns out that my Gallery software is giving them a mysterious yellow tint when it resizes them. To see what I mean, click on any of the photos and you will see that the original larger version has a pretty luminescent green color.

Anyway, to satisfy my perfectionistish desire to get it right -and don't ask me why I need to know the exact scientific name, because I have no reason- after posting my post I spent more time searching for the plant on the web and I went out again yesterday to get more photos. (these photos today still suffer from the Gallery yellowing effect. I think I may have to start resizing them in Photoshop instead)

After some further searching, I thought I had found it when all the linguistic evidence also suggested that this is bitter melon which a few sites equated with the Japanese common names nigauri, tsurureishi, and goya (the Okinawan name, and also the name I knew it by from it's use in Okinawan cooking).

I was almost thrown off when I did a further search came up with these photos, which look nothing like the plant crawling up our staircase, nor the goya sold in the local supermarket. I was especially thrown by image #5. Of course, a closer look at this sketch indicates that maybe the scary looking orange thing is the female gourd of the plant. Or as Rain Tree indicates, maybe it is just what happens if you don't pick the goya soon enough.

The young fruit is emerald green, turning to orange-yellow when ripe. At maturity, the fruit splits into three irregular valves that curl backwards and release numerous reddish-brown or white seeds encased in scarlet arils.

This plant seems to have quite a history not only in Okinawan culture, but also as a medicinal plant around the world.

Via: Rain Tree (very informative)

Medicinally, the plant has a long history of use by the indigenous peoples of the Amazon. A leaf tea is used for diabetes, to expel intestinal gas, to promote menstruation, and as an antiviral for measles, hepatitis, and feverish conditions. It is used topically for sores, wounds, and infections and internally and externally for worms and parasites.

In Brazilian herbal medicine, bitter melon is used for tumors, wounds, rheumatism, malaria, vaginal discharge, inflammation, menstrual problems, diabetes, colic, fevers, worms. It is also used to induce abortions and as an aphrodisiac. It is prepared into a topical remedy for the skin to treat vaginitis, hemorrhoids, scabies, itchy rashes, eczema, leprosy and other skin problems. In Mexico, the entire plant is used for diabetes and dysentery; the root is a reputed aphrodisiac. In Peruvian herbal medicine, the leaf or aerial parts of the plant are used to treat measles, malaria, and all types of inflammation. In Nicaragua, the leaf is commonly used for stomach pain, diabetes, fevers, colds, coughs, headaches, malaria, skin complaints, menstrual disorders, aches and pains, hypertension, infections, and as an aid in childbirth.

It's not just people in the jungle who believe this has some medicinal value either, modern scientists are researching it's use with HIV patients.

Also via Tropilab

Bitter melon seems to be supportive in HIV, several proteins (such as alpha - and beta momocharin) have HIV inhibitory effects in vitro. However, they are not cytotoxic.

Map 30 is a specific protein in bitter melon, that is useful in treating HIV infection.

The juice of this plant appears to be abortifacient.

In traditional Chinese medicine the vegetable is used as an appetite stimulant and as a treatment for gastrointestinal infection and against cancer (breast).
Peria is also hypoglycemic (blood sugar - lowering effects).

It has been proven to increase the number of beta cells (those which produce insulin) in the pancreas and is natural support for diabetics.

There is even more in depth info about the specific chemistry here. Thanks to my recent biology text-book review I can now understand a little of what they are talking about. I'm soooo dang smart. Too smart maybe.

And what do I have to add to the vast knowledge found on the web about Momordica Charantia L.?

I love goya in a veggie stir-fry, or occasionally with an egg over rice for breakfast, but I am anxious to try goya juice and goya soaked in brown sugar as mentioned at Wonder Okinawa.

If you live in Tokyo you can, of course, get goya at your local aoyasan or, if you don't feel confident in your ability to cook it, you can probably find it at one of the many Okinawan restaurants.

More photos of goya, photos of Momordica Charantia L, and photos of bitter melon. (of course they are all the same thing, but this is just for google juice.)

Comments about Momordica Charantia L

Beautifull images.Supereb.I like them.I just want to know that.You shooot them you'reself or you get them on the net.

Posted by: Tedd at August 30, 2005 02:33 PM

Of course I shoot them myself.

It's part of my plan to learn more about the natural world I live in. Document all the plants I see that catch my fancy as I look them up to learn more about them.

Glad you like them because I have hundreds of edible/medicinal herb photos from Sweden just sitting here on my hard-drive waiting to be posted.

Posted by: kevin at August 30, 2005 02:51 PM

recent galleries