Eat Your Bitter Melon!

You may have read about Bitter Melon in the news lately. A recent study suggests that this bitter gourd has cancer-fighting properties, and for centuries, Bitter Melon has been consumed as a medicinal food. Frieda’s Specialty Produce is now distributing this unusual ethnic vegetable to supermarkets around the country. Check out our short, informational video about Bitter Melon:

It looks like a lumpy, bumpy cucumber covered with warts. Inside are small, flat seeds and a hollow cavity. Grown on vines in many tropical regions around the world, Bitter Melon goes by many names: Bitter Gourd, Balsalm Pear, Goya (Japan), Karela/Kavel (India), Ampalaya (The Philippines), Balsamino (Spanish Caribbean), Foo Qua/Fu Gwa/Ku Gua (China), Kho-Qua (Vietnam). There are also many varieties, but the most common in the U.S. are Asian-style Bitter Melon and Indian Bitter Melon.

Bitter Melon is not for culinary cowards. Its flavor is very bitter — much more bitter than radicchio or endive lettuce. It’s truly an acquired taste. Not everyone will have much of a palate for Bitter Melon, but it’s much loved around the world, especially in India and The Philippines. (Momordicine is the natural chemical compound that makes it so bitter.)

So, if you dare, how do you prepare it? Most recommend cooking it by first scraping out the seeds and inner membrane, and then steaming, boiling, stir-frying, pickling, or even deep-frying. Some people like to salt it and rinse it before cooking to remove some of the bitterness. Pair Bitter Melon with strong flavors, especially hot spices, which help to balance the bitterness. It’s often used in curries with coconut milk, or stuffed with onions and spices and fried.

For centuries, Bitter Melon has been used as a medicinal food. It is believed to cleanse the blood and help with digestion. Some even use it as a tonic for malaria. Many believe that Bitter Melon can actually lower your blood sugar. And studies are being done to investigate its cancer-fighting properties. In some countries, it’s even sold as a supplement in capsule form!

Go ahead — try this amazingly healthy food. You just might like it!