Momordica balsamina is a tendril-bearing annual vine native to the tropical regions of Africa, introduced and invasive in Asia, Australia, Central America, and North America, where they have been found in some parts of Florida. It has pale yellow, deeply veined flowers and round, somewhat warty, bright orange fruits, or "apples". When ripe, the fruits burst apart, revealing numerous seeds covered with a brilliant scarlet, extremely sticky coating. The balsam apple was introduced into Europe by 1568 and was used medicinally to treat wounds. In 1810, Thomas Jefferson planted this vine in his flower borders at Monticello along with larkspur, poppies, and nutmeg.
Some people[who?] indicated that the outer rind and the seeds of the fruit are poisonous, however the Tsonga people found in the northern region of southern Africa eat the leaves of the plant along with the fruit which bears its name.
Momordica balsamina and the related Momordica charantia share some common names: African cucumber, balsam apple, and balsam pear. Other names for M. balsamina are balsamina or southern balsam pear. It is known in Africa under a broad range of names, e.g. in Mozambique as cacana and in South Africa as nkaka.
- Nelson, Lewis S.; Shih, Richard D.; Balick, Michael J.; New York Botanical Garden (2007). Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants (2nd ed.). New York: Springer. p. 217. ISBN 978-0-387-31268-2. Retrieved August 11, 2011.
- Quattrocchi, Umberto (2000). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology. III. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press. p. 1711. ISBN 0-8493-2677-X. Retrieved Aug 11, 2011.
- Grubben, G.J.H.; Denton, O.A., eds. (2004). Vegetables. Plant Resources of Tropical Africa. 2. Wageningen, Netherlands: PROTA Foundation. pp. 384–5. ISBN 978-90-5782-147-9. Retrieved August 11, 2011.