Bitter Gourd : Mormodica charantia L.
Bitter gourd is popular due to its medicinal properties. Origin of the crop is unknown, but it is widely spread throughout the tropics. The fruit is a good source of iron, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin B. In Sri Lanka Bitter gourd is eaten as a vegetable. It can be successfully grown on elevation from sea level to about 1200m. It can be cultivated in low country and mid country during both seasons. The identified districts for Bitter gourd production are Kurunegala, Hambantota, Ratnapura, Kandy, Matale, Nuwara Eliya, Anuradhapura , Puttalam, and Amparai districts.
The identified districts of Kurunagala, Hambantota, Ratnapura, Kandy. and Matale, Nuwara Eliya, Anuradhapura, Puttalam and Amparai will be the major Bitter gourd cultivating areas in Sri Lanka.
The fruit is used as vegetable as well as it can be used as a medicine for diabetics and vermifuge . Nutritional composition (values are per 100g of edible portion is given below)
Nutritional Composition (Which are per 100g of edible portion)
Source Tables of Food Composition .Medical Research Institute, Colombo
Harvesting & Post-harvest Technology
Peak production months
Bitter gourd peak production months during the Maha season are January, February and the first two weeks of March and April, May June and July for the Yaha season.
Post-harvest loss reduction and value addition
The post-harvest loss of bitter gourd is about 25%. Main reason for this much of loss is due to ripening and mechanical damage during transport. Reduction of post-harvest loss minimizes the unit production cost and bring down the price gap between grower and consumer.
Due to warty nature of the fruit the transport damage is very high. Further polysacks bags being used to pack them causes a severe damage to the fruit. If fruits are carefully transported, post-harvest loss can be minimized to a greater extent.
Bitter gourd can be stored at ambient temperature for 4-6 days if they are harvested in a slightly immature stage. However this storage life can further be extended by storing them at 13 deg C. The maximum storage life at low temperature is limited to 14-16 days.
Value addition of bitter gourd can be done by dehydration. Thin slices can be dehydrated and this technology is adopted in a small scale for domestic purposes. A better quality product can be prepared if driers are used for dehydration. In addition slices of this fruit can be preserved in brine solution.
Economics & Marketing
Extent and production
Bitter gourd cultivation extent and production during 1991-1999
During 1991 to 1999 the total cultivated extent ranged between 3414 ha and 3788 ha and total production 19583l and 22093t. There was no significant changes over this 9 year period with regard to total extent and total production. However during the Maha season cultivation, the extent and production were higher than the Yala season except during 1992. This might be due to the prevalence of favourable weather conditions during the Maha season.
The unit production cost for the 1998 to 2001 is given in the table showing that the production costs were similar during 1998, 1999,and 2000. The projected unit area cost of production during 2001 is low , the reason being the inducement and encouragement given to the farmers to adopt the appropriate crop management technology through demonstration programme.
There is an export potential for mature fruits with fresh appearance and dehydrated fruits (dry split or sliced fruits).
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