The Bitter Gourd (Momordica charantia) is a slender climber (above). Like other members of the cucumber family (Cucurbitaceae), the flowers are unisexual (below). Male and female flowers of the Bitter Gourd are found on the same plant.
As implied by the common name, the fruits are bitter. As such, they are valued by many Southeast Asians as a tonic vegetable as well as folk medicine to treat diabetes, arthritis, rheumatism and asthma. The fruits, flowers and young leaves are eaten as a vegetable.
The green fruits (above) turn orange as they ripen, then splitting open to expose the many seeds, each enclosed within a bright red pulp. The redness of the seed pulp no doubt attracts birds, in this case Javan Myna (Acridotheres javanicus) and Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier). These birds swallow the seeds whole and thus help in dispersing the seeds.
From the video above, it is seen that both birds prefer the seed but the bulbul also goes for the soft inner tissues of the fruit wall, even after consuming a few seeds. Pecking at the soft tissues of the fruit wall required extensive swiping of the bill against the branches of the small Mulberry tree (Morus alba) that the Bitter Gourd twines round for support.
7th April 2019
The red pulp (arils?) covering the seeds of the ripe fruit is sweet.
Yes, the red fleshy pulp around the seed is the aril. It is sweet and edible but there are other reports that say it is poisonous. The next opportunity I come across a ripe fruit, I will taste tha aril.
This morning there was a ripening fruit. It soon splitted at the bottom and all the seeds dropped onto the ground. Picked one seed, washed the soil away and tasted the red pulp. Sweetish, although not intensely sweet. My Filipina helper confirmed that the red aril is edible but not commonly eaten in her country.