Bitter melon is grown in Asia, Africa and South America. While it is used in many Asian dishes, bitter melon is virtually unknown to cooking in the U.S. The melon has a bitter flavor and usually is cooked instead of eaten fresh. It grows naturally in tropical to sub-tropical regions, so it is only hardy through USDA zones 9 to 11, although bitter melon will grow as a summer fruit in other regions. Growing bitter melon will give an exotic flare to any garden.
Plant bitter melon in full sun and well-drained soil, although it can handle any soil type. Amend the soil before planting by adding 1 lb. of compost or manure and mixing it into the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches.
Plant bitter melon in the spring after the last frost. Dig a hole for the bitter melon as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Place the bitter melon in the holes and cover it with soil, patting down firmly.
Water the bitter melon at least twice a week for five minutes at each watering if the climate has little natural rainfall.
Place the bitter melon on a trellis once the vines are about 1 foot long. Tie the vines loosely to the trellis with twine. Bitter melon fruit grows best on a trellis.
Harvest bitter melon when the fruit is 4 to 6 inches long and light green. Do not allow it to grow any longer or it will be too bitter to eat.