Wild desert gourd or colocynth (Citrullus colocynthis)

Wild Desert Gourd fruit on the vineThe wild desert gourd (also known as Bitter Apple, Bitter Cucumber, Egusi, or Vine of Sodom), a member of the watermelon family, produces a 2.4- to 3-meter-long (7 1/2- to 9-foot-long) ground-trailing vine with hairy, angular stems. The leaves are 3-7 lobed.  The perfectly round, yellowish green gourds are spongy and about the size of a lemon and contain many seeds. They are yellow when ripe.  Flowers are yellow with 5-6 petals.

Where to Find: Wild Desert Gourd fruit hidden behind vines and leavesThis creeping plant can be found in any climatic zone, generally in desert scrub and waste areas. It grows abundantly in the Sahara, in many Arab countries, on the southeastern coast of India, and on some of the islands of the Aegean Sea. The wild desert gourd will grow in the hottest localities.

Edible Parts: The seeds inside the ripe gourd are edible after they are completely separated from the very bitter pulp. They are somewhat bitter themselves but rich in fat and protein.  Roast or boil the seeds—their kernels are rich in oil. The flowers are edible. The succulent stem tips can be chewed to obtain water.  The fruit is a powerful laxative and can cause violent stomach cramps if ingested.

Wild Desert Gourd melons

Close up of Wild Desert Gourd leaf

Color drawing of the Wild Desert Gourd plant illustrating the leaves, flowers, fruit, and cross section of seeds and fruit

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