balsam pear (?)

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Thu Jun 10 00:53:27 UTC 2004

>I would be grateful for any information on the appearance in English,
>especially in American English, of the term "balsam pear" to designate the
>plant or fruit of Momordica charantia. Here's what I've got now:
>RHUD has a headword entry and def but no date.
>OED has no entry; however, it gives "balsam pear" at the definition of karela
>(one of the modern culinary names in English of this fruit, from Hindi).
>DARE has no entry, but gives "balsam pear" at the definition of bitter melon
>(one of its other modern culinary names, probably a translation from Chinese.
>DARE's only informants for the term were Hawaiian).
>NID3, at balsam pear, says a "balsam apple.

Century Dictionary (1889) doesn't show this "balsam-pear"; the supplement
(1909) shows it however.

Newpaperarchive gives one item where "balsam-pear" appears with its species
name as above ... this is from Canada in 1941. There are other instances of
"balsam pear" (a few) but without this (or without any) species name. A
couple of items from 1894 use "lakwa", which I suppose is maybe a Chinese word.

Google provides multiple sites showing "balsam pear" as one of a group of
names for the bitter melon currently.

-- Doug Wilson

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