Kagua, karela, wild cucumber, bitter gourd and bitter melon are all names for a single fruit that is primarily cultivated in southeast Asia and tropical climates. As some of its monikers signify, this fruit has a strong bitter taste in its raw form. With plenty of vitamin A, B, C vitamins and other nutrients, the jagged, pale green vegetable might appear foreign and intimidating to some. In actuality, bitter melon is no more difficult to prepare than the common squash or zucchini.
There are many ways to transform this exotic fruit into a palatable and even delicious health food. How comfortable you are with kitchen tools and the time available to you are two factors when choosing how to eat bitter melon.
A cup of bitter melon tea can be an effective way to support the respiratory and circulatory system, or just a flavorful beverage during the day. On the other hand, bitter melon can also be prepared into a tasty dish that not only provides nutritional support, but complements a well-rounded meal.
Potential Bitter Melon Benefits
Bitter melon is considered to be a nutrient-dense food. In addition to vitamins A, C, E and several B vitamins, the vegetable contains important minerals such as potassium, calcium, zinc and magnesium. Bitter melon also contains several active constituents.
One of these active constituents is an insulin-like protein called Polypeptide-p. Also called P-insulin, the compound is said to support healthy glucose levels. The “p” in P-insulin actually refers to plants. A wide variety of plants contain the compound P-insulin, but bitter melon is one of the best sources.
As an extremely bitter herb, bitter melon is one of many plant-based foods that is thought to promote healthy digestion. Aiding saliva secretion and stomach acid are two ways bitter herbs such as bitter melon support proper digestive function.
Preparing the Melon to Taste
While bitter melon extract, juice, and tea are viable ways to gain potential health benefits of the vegetable, learning how to eat bitter melon can be enjoyable, too. When selecting your raw gourd, it is suggested to choose one that is small, bright green, and firm. These characteristics designate a younger gourd that is somewhat less bitter than a fully mature one.
Once the gourd has been washed and dried, you can choose to remove some of the skin with a paring knife if you do not plan to slice the fruit thinly. Slice off the ends of the bitter melon, then slice it lengthwise and remove the seeds. While bitter melon seeds do have some nutritional value, they are the most bitter part of the fruit and will be undesirable to those not familiar with the taste.
Once the bitter melon has been sliced, feel free to prepare it in any number of ways. Some choose to salt, drain, and blanch it with baking soda to remove the bitterness. In order to accommodate its bitterness, it is suggested that bitter melon be prepared with potent spices such as chili, garlic, ginger, miso, or curry paste.
As an addendum to rice, salad, or other vegetables, a bitter melon can be prepared on the stove top with canola or vegetable oil, common kitchen spices, and frequent stirring. The fruit is stirred and cooked until the slices are lightly toasted. For a more integrated dish, some recipes prepare it with a meat of choice and spices in a wok or stir-fried.
The strong flavor profile of bitter melon is both a blessing and a curse. While the health food contains a wide variety of active components, its natural bitterness may not be appealing to everyone. However, you can have an experience that is both delicious and nutritious if they know the basics of how to eat bitter melon.