Balsam Pear
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Balsam Pear
A Native Unknown Photo: Ankush Dave
Common name: Balsam Pear, Balsam Apple, african cucumber, southern balsam pear • Hindi: बाड़ करेलिया Bad kareliya, बड़ा करेला Bara-karela, जंगली करेला Jangli-karela, Kankero, मोखा Mokha • Kannada: ಹುಚ್ಚುತೊಂಡೆ (ಬಳ್ಳಿ) Huchhu thonde balli, ಕಾರ್ಚಿ (ಬಳ್ಳಿ) Kaarchi balli, ಚೀಲೈತ Cheelaita • Malayalam: Undapaval, Kaippanpaval • Marathi: Karla • Nepali: बरेला Barela • Tamil: Parpakal • Angami: Kariela
Botanical name: Momordica balsamina    Family: Cucurbitaceae (Pumpkin family)
Synonyms: Momordica huberii, Momordica garipensis, Momordica schinzii

Balsam Pear is an annual climber with unbranched hairless tendrils, monoecious. Stems is velvet-hairy to becoming hairless. Leaves are round in outline, 1.5-5.0 cm long and as broad, heart-shaped at base, hairless or sparsely hairy, 3-5-lobed, middle lobes broadly ovate or rhombic-ovate, sinuate-toothed or pointedly lobed. Leaf-stalks are 1-3 cm long, velvet-hairy. Flowers are yellow, 2.5-3.0 cm across, stalked. Male flowers are solitary, on 1.5 cm long flower-cluster-stalk, bearing near the tip a stalkless, broadly ovate-heart-shaped, nearly hairless, toothed bract. Female flowers are on 0.5-1.5 cm long basally bracteate or ebracteate flower-cluster-stalks. Calyx tube is 5-6 mm long, velvet-hairy, lobes ovate, tapering, 3-3.5 mm broad. Flowers are slightly zygomorphic, brown at base, petals yellow, obovate, 1.0-1.5 cm long, 0.8-1.0 cm broad. Fruits are broadly ovoid, narrowed at ends, 2-7 cm long, 1-2.5 cm broad, orange-red, warty. When ripe, the fruits burst apart, revealing numerous seeds covered with a brilliant scarlet, extremely sticky coating. The balsam-like bursting of the fruit may have inspired the species name balsamina. The leaves and green fruit are cooked and eaten as spinach, sometimes with groundnuts, or simply mixed with porridge. The young leaves contain vitamin C. The raw ripe fruits are also eaten. Balsam Pear is found in Africa and South Asia. Flowering: August-November.
Medicinal uses: A concoction made by infusing the fruit (minus the seed) in olive or almond oil, is used as an ointment for chapped hands, burns and haemorrhoids and the mashed fruit is used as a poultice.

Identification credit: Ankush Dave Photographed in Bayana, Rajasthan.

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