By Vina Medenilla
Ampalaya, or bitter gourd (Momordica charantia), is a crop that is suitable for year-round cultivation in the Philippines, though thrives best if grown from October to February. It must be planted in soil with pH levels 6 to 6.7.
Ampalaya is the main ingredient in local recipes like pinakbet and dinengdeng. It contains vitamins and minerals like vitamins A and C, folate, and dietary fiber.
To grow this veggie from seed, follow this procedure:
For the materials, prepare the medium (vermicast, carbonized rice hull, and compost), ampalaya seeds, polybag, plastic, scissors, and wet cloth.
Start by soaking the ampalaya seeds in water for one day. Put the seeds in a clean damp towel or cloth. Wrap the cloth in plastic, then store this in a shady spot for another three days. This method is called ‘ragdoll’ and is performed to promote seed germination.
Mix the vermicast, carbonized rice hull, and compost to create a rich, organic growing medium. Put the mixture in the polybag.
Next, unwrap the seeds and check if any roots have already emerged. The white part in them is where the roots will develop so make sure to tuck that side in the soil.
After three days, the plant will start to sprout. Acclimatize the seedlings by slowly exposing them to the sun after a week.
Once its true leaves appear or when the plant reaches its third week, the ampalaya seedlings will be ready for transplanting.
Continue their growth by moving the young plants in sacks. Ensure proper drainage by creating holes at the bottom part of each planter.
It is better to transplant in the late afternoon in order to protect the seedlings from being burnt by the midday sun.
After three weeks, fertilize the plants using vermicast and 14-14-14 or complete fertilizer. Create a trellis to support the vegetables as they grow.
Once fruits have emerged, cover them with plastic bags as protection from pests. Ampalaya likely matures in two to three months after transplanting.
For more information, contact the farmers’ contact center at 09209462474.
The procedure was demonstrated in AgriTalk’s 2 Easy Learning Video Series that presents instructional guides on organic fertilizers and pesticides, urban agriculture technologies, and the production of fast-growing crops. The online series is made possible in partnership with the Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Training Center and Manila Bulletin’s Agriculture Online.