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Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Bitter Melon

Other Common Names Include:

Ampalaya, balsam pear, bitter cucumber, bitter gourd, cundeamor, foo gwa, fu kwa, fwa kwa, karela, nigai uri, maiden’s blush, leprosy pear.

Latin Name: Momordica charantia

Plant Family: Cucurbitaceae

Close Relatives: Cucumber, gourd and squash

Uses and Markets: Culinary (Caribbean, Chinese, Indian and southern Asian cuisine): fruits are soaked to remove some of the bitterness, then boiled or fried.  Fruits and leaves are also used in curries, soups or tea.  Medicinal and natural health product (e.g. treatment of diabetes, blood disorders, etc).

Bitter melon plant Bitter melon fruit
Production Life Cycle in Ontario


Hardiness Zone


Special Notes

Water soaking and scarification are required for optimal seed germination. Some cucurbit crops respond well to season extension techniques including plastic mulch - for more information, refer to the General Agronomics section.  This crop can also be grown in the greenhouse - for more information refer to the greenhouse-grown bitter melon profile.

Propagation method

Most commonly by transplants from seeds, less commonly by direct seeding.

Greenhouse Seeding/Propagation Dates

Late April or early May.

Field Seeding Date:

After last frost

Field Transplanting Dates

After last frost, 3-5 weeks after greenhouse seeding.

In-row spacing

40-50 cm

Between row spacing

1.2-1.5 m

Optimal Soil temperature at planting

Delay planting until the soil temperature is 15°C or higher.  The optimum soil temperature range at planting is 25°C-35°C.


Apply up to 110 kg/ha N. Broadcast 65 kg/ha N and all the phosphate and potash required prior to planting. Sidedress the remainder of the nitrogen before the vines start to run. On sandy soils, a second application may be necessary after the vines begin to run. Click here for phosphorus and potassium application guidelines and for more information on specialty crop fertility.

Soil type

All soil types, well-drained soils.

Soil pH


Special requirements for growth habit

Cucurbit crops may benefit from staking or trellising to reduce fruit damage on the ground, keep fruit clean and increase harvest ease.

Optimal Temperature Range


Temperature sensitivity

Frost sensitive

Irrigation requirements

Irrigation is beneficial under normal Ontario conditions.

Days to harvest

60-90 days depending on cultivar.

Specialized equipment


Harvest Scheduling

Multiple harvests from the same planting.

Hand harvest or machine harvest

Hand harvest

Quality parameters/grades

No established grades. Quality is determined by the market.

Additional Harvest Notes

Harvest firm, young fruits, light green in colour with soft white flesh.  If possible, harvest during cooler parts of the day to reduce moisture loss and cooling costs. Remove field heat as soon as possible after harvest.

Post harvest
Special handling/curing


Storage Conditions

Relative humidity (RH): 85-90%

Temperature: 12-13°C 

Air Exchange: N/A

Duration: 2-3 weeks

Specific pests observed on this crop in Ontario (observations based on limited experience with this crop)

Insects and Invertebrates: Cucumber beetles, aphids (e.g. Aphis gossypii)

Diseases: Downy mildew, powdery mildew, alternaria blight

Other Potential Pests: The following pests have not been observed on this crop in Ontario. However, they are either significant concerns for closely related plants in Ontario, or are reported on this crop in other production areas. This is not a comprehensive list of all potential pests. Not all of these pests will necessarily survive Ontario’s climate, but could potentially survive in a protected environment (e.g. greenhouse, storage facility).

Insects and Invertebrates: Two-spotted spider mites, leafhoppers, squash bugs.

Diseases: Damping off and root rots, bacterial wilt, angular leaf spot, scab, anthracnose, gummy stem blight (also known as black rot or alligator skin), fusarium wilt, phytophthora blight, septoria leaf spot, cucumber mosaic virus.

*Indicates pests commonly mentioned as causing significant damage or economic loss to this crop in other regions.


To date the following pests have been the most significant in Ontario: cucumber beetle, alternaria blight.  This crop may be susceptible to many of the same pests as cucumber and squash.  Downy mildew is a serious disease of cucurbit crops.  Cucumbers are the most susceptible to infection, however melons and other cucurbit crops can be affected by certain pathotypes of this disease.  Downy mildew is wind borne and highly infectious. In susceptible cucurbits, it can destroy on unprotected crop in less than 1 week.  

This crop is in Crop Group 9: Cucurbit Vegetable Group and Subgroup 9B: Squash/Cucumber Subgroup. For more information on Crop Groups, refer to the Pest section.  Always refer to product labels, and follow all directions specified on the label, before applying any pest control product.  For more information, consult an OMAFRA specialist. For more information on pests of cucurbits in Ontario, refer to OMAFRA’s Ontario CropIPM tool or vegetable production and protection publications.  For pest control products registered on cucurbits refer to OMAFRA Publication 838. It is important to note that not all pest control products registered on cucumber are registered on bitter melon. 

Cucumber beetle Melon aphid, Aphis gossypii Downy mildew on cucurbit Powdery mildew on cucurbit Alternaria on cucurbit
Additional Notes
  • This crop can also be grown in the greenhouse.  Hydroponic greenhouse production gives optimal yields.
  • Check for pollinator activity at early bloom. Introduce honeybees if necessary.


Ontario Research Projects Used to Create This Profile
  1. Elford, E., Filotas, M., Todd, J., and S. Westerveld. 2009. Non-traditional crops demonstration garden. OMAFRA Simcoe Resource Centre, unpublished.
  1. Munro, D. B., and E. Small.  1997.  Vegetables of Canada.  NRC Research Press, Ottawa.
  2. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.  2010.  Publication 363 Vegetable Production Recommendations 2010-2011.  Queen’s Printer for Ontario, Toronto.
  3. Palada, M. C. and L.C. Chang. 2003. Suggested Cultural Practices for Bitter Gourd.
  4. University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.  1998.  Publication 3346 Specialty and Minor Crops Handbook, Second Edition.  University of California, Oakland.