Bitter Gourd
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Bitter Gourd
ative Photo: Tabish
Common name: Bitter Gourd • Assamese: কেৰেলা karela • Bengali: করলা karala • Gujarati: કારેલું karelu • Hindi: करेला Karela, कठिल्ल kathilla, परारु poraru • Kannada: ಹಾಗಲಕಾಯಿ haagalakaay • Konkani: काराते kaaraate • Malayalam: കയ്‌പ്പ kayppa, പാവയ്ക്ക pavaykka • Manipuri: ꯀꯥꯔꯣꯟ ꯑꯈꯥꯕꯤ কারোন অখাবী Karon akhabi • Marathi: आंबलें ambalem, कारली karali, कारेती kareti • Mizo: changkha • Nepali: तिते करेला Tite Karela, करेला Karela, करेलो karelo • Oriya: changkha • Sanskrit: कारवेल्लकःkaarvellakah, कटिल्लः kathillah, परारु paraaru, सुषवी sushavi, ऊर्ध्वासितः urdhvaasitah • Tamil: இராசவள்ளி iraca-valli, பாகற்காய் pAgakkai • Telugu: కాకర kakara • Urdu: کريلا karela • Angami: Kariela
Botanical name: Momordica charantia    Family: Cucurbitaceae (Pumpkin family)
Synonyms: Momordica muricata, Momordica zeylanica, Momordica charantia var. muricata

Bitter Gourd is a herbaceous, tendril-bearing vine, growing up to 5 m. It bears simple, alternate leaves 4-12 cm across, with 3-7 deeply separated lobes. Each plant bears separate yellow male and female flowers, about 2-3 cm in diameter. Male flowers, more numerous, have a yellow center and conical base, while female flowers have a green center and small bump at the base. The fruit has a distinct warty looking exterior and an oblong shape. It is hollow in cross-section, with a relatively thin layer of flesh surrounding a central seed cavity filled with large flat seeds and pith. Seeds and pith appear white in unripe fruits. The fruit is most often eaten green. Although it can also be eaten when it has started to ripen and turn yellowish, it becomes more bitter as it ripens. When the fruit ripens and turns orange and mushy, it is too bitter to eat. It splits into segments which curl back dramatically to expose seeds covered in bright red pulp.

Identification credit: Thingnam Girija Photographed in Manipur.

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