The Q&A Archives: Balsam Apple

Question: My parents used to grow this vine that would bear a spiney KIWI sized fruit which turned bright orange when ripe and when cut open had very slimey bright red seeds. They used to break up the fruit and pack very tightly in pint size jars and then fill the jar with isoprople alcohol. This was used on our cuts and scrapes. Can you help or does anyone know where I might be able to find the seeds. Dad called it a balsam apple and again the outside skin was very bumpy.

Answer: Momordica charantia is sometimes called balsam pear and it fits the description you've provided. It's an annual vining plant with deeply-lobed leaves and white, fringed flowers. The fruit is cylindrical with tapered ends, skin is ridged and warty, and the fruits contain scarlet-red seeds. I can't vouch for the safety or usefulness of the mixture you describe, but the plants are interesting if grown along a sunny wall or fence. A seed source might be a company specializing in herbs and rare seeds, such as Nichol's Garden Nursery, 1190 Old Salem Rd. NE, Albany, OR 97321.

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