Momordica charantia, known as bitter melon, bitter gourd, bitter squash or balsam-pear in English, has many other local names. Goya from Okinawan and karela from Sanskrit are also used by English-language speakers. It is a tropical and subtropical vine of the family Cucurbitaceae, widely grown in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean for its edible fruit, which is extremely bitter. Its many varieties differ substantially in the shape and bitterness of the fruit. Bitter melon originated on the Indian subcontinent, and was introduced into China in the 14th century.
This herbaceous, tendril-bearing vine grows to 5 m. It bears simple, alternate leaves 4–12 cm across, with three to seven deeply separated lobes. Each plant bears separate yellow male and female flowers. In the Northern Hemisphere, flowering occurs during June to July and fruiting during September to November.