Know Your Vegetable- Bitter Gourd- Karela


Bitter gourd (also known as bitter melon), looks like a cucumber but it has small bumps all over the skin. This is referred to as Karela in Hindi.

There are two types of bitter gourd: a pale green, oblong one that grows to about 20cms in length and another relatively smaller oval dark green which grows to 10cms in length.

The botanical name for bitter gourd is Momordica Charantia and it belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family which also includes squash, melons, cucumbers and luffas.

As the name suggests, the gourd is bitter to taste because of the presence of momordicine. Of the two varieties, both have similar qualities. When the seeds are white in colour it means that it is unripe and the seeds turn red when they the gourd becomes ripe.  When the vegetable-fruit is ripe, it tastes a lot more bitter.


One of the most well-known vegetables in India and extensively cultivated in Asia, bitter gourd is commonly found in Asian and South American countries, bitter gourd grows well in hot and humid climates.Widely spread across tropical, sub-tropical and temperate regions, bitter gourd is basically a vine that has climbing nature.


Bitter gourds history dates back to about 600 years back in China and it is native to the Asian Continent. Westerners may not be so accustomed to this gourd and hence the apprehension while eating, tasting it. But once you taste it, it’s not so bad! If not for anything, eat it for its medicinal value. The medicinal benefits of bitter gourd were made use of in various parts of the world namely, China, India, Africa and South eastern USA. Today, it is cultivated in Thailand, India, Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, South America and the Caribbean.

Wrapping up

The trademark of this vegetable is its bitterness, which is considered as a major medicinal value. In a subsequent article you will read about the benefits of this bittersweet vegetable.

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