A Curious Plant Creeping Into my Foodgarden

in #ecotrain2 months ago


While out in the gardens today I noticed a curious plant creeping along the garden fence. The creeper had tiny melon-like leaves and petite yet thickly veined cream color flowers. And in between the flowers and the leaves, I could see beautiful pendulum-like fruits dangling down.


I managed to identify the plant as a Balsam Apple or Bitter Melon. (Momordica balsamina)

Turns out that this is yet another wild edible plant with an array of medicinal properties. It just goes to show that nature provides so much more than grocery stores ever can.

"The leaves and young fruits of Momordica balsamina are cooked and eaten as a vegetable in Cameroon, Sudan and southern Africa. The bitter young fruits have been reported widely as edible, whereas the ripe fruits cause vomiting and diarrhea, and can be poisonous. The bright red fruit pulp is eaten in Namibia. Can harm dogs if they eat the ripe fruit." - source


In traditional Zulu medicine, this plant is said to be used for digestive complaints and diabetes, and it is also used as a poultice for burns. And the leaf sap can even be used as an agent to clean metal with.

"According to Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk (1962), the plant contains a bitter principle momordicin. They report that 'overseas a liniment, made by infusing the fruit (minus the seed) in olive or almond oil, is used as an application to chapped hands, burns and haemorrhoids and the mashed fruit is used as a poultice'. This practice probably explains the species name balsamina. Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk also list many medicinal and other uses of M. balsamina in tropical Africa and elsewhere." source


Now I am not too sure whether I will be messing around with this plant just yet, the thin grey line between the medicinal and the "hey you might die" is a little too vague for my liking. Maybe after some strenuous research, but for now, I think I will give it a hard pass and admire it for its beauty instead.


I think I agree with not eating the plant until one knows more about the correct preparedness for it. Their are so many other things that are safe to eat without taking chances.

Absolutely. I love finding new edible or medicinal plants and learning more about them, but I am not willing to take a chance on uncertainty.

It is a bit disconcerting how they discuss it's edibility. 'The young fruits are edible if bitter. The mature fruits are poisonous, and eaten in Namibia, but kill dogs that eat them.' There are a variety of foods that are only edible if prepared properly, requiring blanching or other methods of particular care, like nettles or fugu.

I tend not to eat any of them, either. Your wisdom is showing.


Haha, yeah some grey areas are just not black or white enough for me. I don't stick my finger in every pile of brown stuff I see just to figure out if it is crap or chocolates.
If and when time allows I will dig deeper into certain plants, but time has not been my best friend lately :D