Cucurbits, especially bitter gourd (Momordica charantia) and pumpkins (Cucurbita moschata), are wide spread in vegetable gardens in Asia. As a supplier of essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals) and other valuable ingredients (secondary metabolites) they can provide a great contribution to food security and to avoid hidden hunger under the poor population. For commercial production mainly fast growing cultivars of bitter gourd and pumpkin are used. These cultivars are not suitable for school and house gardens because they also possess long vines. Therefore, the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC) has specialised on breeding of vegetable cultivars for a simple and cheap cultivation in small gardens to improve the spectrum of ingredients.
The aim of the project of the AVRDC and the Department of Safety and Quality of Fruit and Vegetables of the Max Rubner-Institut (MRI) is to evaluate the horticultural and nutritious properties of new bitter gourd and pumpkin cultivars.
New bitter gourd and pumpkin cultivars of the AVRDC are investigated at the MRI regarding their content of essential ingredients (carbohydrates, fat, protein, minerals, and vitamins). Furthermore, the spectrum of secondary metabolites is determined by high pressure liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry. Hereby mainly saponins are investigated because they are on one hand responsible for the bitter taste of the bitter gourd and on the other hand they are discussed for a possible ability to reduce blood sugar. Furthermore, the content of carotinoids like ß-carotene as vitamin A supplier is determined. Additionally non-invasive methods like near infrared spectroscopy are used to evaluate if the quality of fruits can be determined or estimated on the basis of a correlation of spectral data and ingredients content.
The project is funded by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Economic cooperation and Development.