This summer I grew five bitter melon (Momordica charantia) vines, also known as Carille, and was rewarded with the sweet harvest pictured above not more than a month ago. Like just about everything else in the garden, it was started from seed and grew to such  great heights that it caused the fence it grew on for support to keel over flat on its face several times in its latter days. The seedlings were started indoors in April and once transplanted 7 weeks later, wasted no time with the bitter melon-baby making process. Tiny yellow flowers could be seen on the little plants, still pretty much on the ground, before summer was even in full swing.

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This was such a pleasant surprise because I was initially concerned that it may have been too cold for them as it was only a couple weeks past our last frost. But they proved me wrong and even gifted us with a few early fruits in June. Though the vines did continue to grow vegetatively, for weeks I thought that was all the bounty we were going to harvest as I saw no more signs of fruit production. I even considered pulling the fence at one point but quickly decided against it so that I could continue to reap the leaves for tea. Then I saw it. Maybe because I didn’t expect much of anything else from it I was not paying attention? But one day a few weeks after returning from vacation, this stared me right in the face.

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Attributing it to the cooler nights, I noticed this bumper crop did manage stay on their vines longer and seemed to ripen at a slower rate than the earlier ones battling Summer’s heat. Once harvested, the fully matured ones ranged in size from about 7″ to 13″ long. I don’t remember them getting that big as a child but who knows. Some we used to make this mean pepper sauce and the others we soaked, squeezed and froze for those wintery Saturdays that a salted fish and dumpling comfort meal is required.

Altogether I counted 18 fruits including the initial 3 plus one that somehow managed to ripen to a fiery yellow and split open without being noticed. I’m still not sure how that happened but let’s just say it may be time for me to make some use of my vision plan. ?

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