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Chinese Cucumber
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Chinese Cucumber
ative Photo: Tabish
Common name: Chinese Cucumber, Spiny bitter-cucumber, Chinese bitter-cucumber • Hindi: ककुर Kakur, कंटोला Kantola, ककरोल Kakrol • Kannada: ಕಾಡುಕಾಕರ Kaadu kaakara • Manipuri: ꯀꯥꯔꯣꯠ Karot, ꯀꯥꯔꯣꯟ Karon • Marathi: Gulkakra • Malayalam: Kshudramalakasanda • Telugu: Varivalli • Bengali: গোলককরা Golkakra • Assamese: Bhat kerala • Sanskrit: Katamala
Botanical name: Momordica cochinchinensis    Family: Cucurbitaceae (Pumpkin family)
Synonyms: Momordica macrophylla, Momordica mixta, Momordica sphaeroidea

Chinese cucumber is a traditional medicinal plant in India, China and Vietnam, commonly seen growing in gardens with its red fruit and red pulp. It is a strong climber, up to 15 m. Tendrils robust, simple. Leaf-stalk robust, 5-10 cm. Leaves are heart-shaped or broadly ovate-round, 10-20 x 10-20 cm, 3-5-lobed. Median lobe is obovate or oblong-lanceshaped, 6-10 x 3-6 cm, margin wavy-toothed, tip pointed or tapering; lateral lobes ovate or oblong-lanceshaped, 3-7 x 2-4 cm, base heart-shaped. Male flowers solitary or in a short raceme; sepal-cup funnel-shaped; sepals broadly lanceshaped or oblong, 12-20 x 6-8 mm, tip pointed or tapering; flowers are yellow to white; petals ovate-oblong, 5-6 x 2-3 cm, tip pointed or tapering; stamens 3. Female flowers are solitary; flower-stalk 5-10 cm, sepal-cup and flower as in male flowers; ovary ovoid-oblong, about 1 cm, densely spiny. Fruit is red, ovoid, 12-15 cm in diameter, fleshy, densely spiny, tip rostar-shaped. It is used in cooking, to make candy and jam, and is thought to support the health of the eyes. Aril, the red, oily pulp surrounding the seeds, is cooked along with seeds to flavor and give its red color to a rice dish, xoi gac, which is served at festive occasions such as weddings in Vietnam. It has large leaves and large white flowers.
Medicinal uses: Seeds are used in Ayurvedic and Chinese traditional medicine. The total beta-carotene in this fruit is very high.

Identification credit: R.K. Nimai Singh Photographed in Imphal, Manipur.

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