Bitter Melon

  • Sun: Full sun
  • Harvest Size: 6 to 12 inches long
  • Days to Harvest: 80
  • Plant Size: Very long vine, 13 to 16 feet

An Asian delicacy, Bitter melon is noted for its extremely bitter taste and considered an acquired taste for Westerners. More closely related to gourds than true melons, it’s often grown as an ornamental for its pretty foliage and strange fruit. This bitter melon has spindle-shaped fruit with dark green color and rugged green skin. Plant in spring after all danger of frost is passed.

Plant spacing: 6 feet apart in the garden; 3 feet apart along fence or trellis. Plants per person: 2.

Secrets to Success »

Bitter melon is best grown along supports, such as a fence; the fruits will grow straight if they are hung as opposed to being left on ground. Bitter melon needs full sun in nutrient-rich, well drained, but moist soil. Use liberal amounts of compost. Mulch to keep moisture in the ground for the long, leafy vines that can get thirsty fast, but ensure good drainage to prevent rot.

Harvest and Use »

Bitter melon turns yellow then orange as it ages. In grown as an ornamental, let the fruit reach full size of a foot or so; for eating, it is best harvested at 6 inches and light green. Use bitter melon in Asian cuisine, soups, and salads. Goes well with pork dishes. Try it between courses to help cleanse the palate.

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