Bitter melon is also known as foo qua, balsam pear, and bitter gourd. It is actually a member of the squash family and resembles a cucumber with bumpy skin. When first picked, a bitter melon is yellow-green, but as it ripens, it turns to a yellow-orange color. The inside of the melon is filled with fibrous seeds. Bitter melon is used mostly in Asian and Indian cooking. Bitter melon plants are considered an invasive weed in Florida.
Bitter melon has some interesting effects on humans. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment for diabetes and to cause abortions. It impedes many things: viruses, bacteria, tumors... and the immune system. It lowers blood cholesterol. It is a laxative.
Bitter melon has lots of potassium and vitamin C. The ripe orange fruit has lots of beta-carotene, and the intensely red ripe seeds have lots of lycopene.
Selection[edit | edit source]
Select firm, unblemished melons that are from 5 to 12 inches in length. Choose melons that are still green for a more bitter flavor and a yellow-orange melon for a milder taste.
Storage[edit | edit source]
Store melon loose in a paper or plastic bag in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. Slice the melon immediately before use.
Preparation[edit | edit source]
Cut in half and discard the seeds and fibrous core. It is indeed 'bitter', even if grilled; not a pleasant taste. To reduce the bitterness, blanch in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. The skin is edible and the melon is not typically peeled. The seeds are also edible, unless very hard, and are included in some recipes. Bitter melon is commonly stuffed, curried or pickled. It can also be used in stir-fry and soup and may be steamed. Garlic or chili peppers are often added to recipes with bitter melon to offset the bitter taste.
Seasonality[edit | edit source]
|Seasonality tables|Autumn|Winter|Spring|Summer|All year|
Bitter melons are available fresh from April to September in most Asian markets and can occasionally be found in larger supermarkets. They are primarily grown in tropical climates, including East Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and South America. Some markets are beginning to carry bitter melons year round. They may also be purchased canned or dried.