Cerasee (Bitter Melon Leaf)
Cerasee is a type of Bitter Melon grown for its healing bitter leaves in many parts of the Caribbean (especially in Jamaica). This variety was shared with us initially by Ms. Marlene Wilks, a community gardener and friend in East New York, Brooklyn. Ms. Marlene is a part of the East New York Farms project and grows many Jamaican crops for market in her neighborhood. To increase the seeds, we grew them around our chicken run in our backyard in Philadelphia, and then shared them with Bitter Kalli of Star Apple Farm in Philadelphia, where Bitter focuses on Southeast Asian and Caribbean crops in particular.
Like all bitter melons, this is a vining crop that will climb anything you give it to climb! Their leaves and green fruits are used for cooking and medicine. Their seeds are ripe when the fruits are past the edible green stage and close to or fully orange or yellow (and no longer edible).
Days to maturity: 60-70
Seeds per pack: 15-18
Germination rate: 80% on 01/24/2024
Planting / harvesting notes
Direct sow outdoors after the last threat of frost has passed, or get a head start and sow indoors a couple weeks beforehand. For better germination, file a corner of the seed coat with a nail file (or clip carefully with nail clipper) to expose the seed inside and/or soak overnight in warm water before planting. The plant will use as much trellising as you give it! These vines grow up to 12’ and thrive in the heat and sun.
Seed keeping notes
Seeds are ripe when the fruits turn a fiery orange. If you wait too long to harvest, they will pop open and drop their seeds, which are covered in a sweet, red gel. Remove the seed coat and dry the seeds in a well ventilated place away from direct sunlight. We have found that smooshing the seeds in a cloth bag will help remove the seed coat more efficiently.