This sub-tropical or tropical vine belongs to the family of cucurbitaceae the fruit of which is the most bitter of all vegetables. The vine grows up to a height of five meters ad the fruit comes in a variety of shapes ands sizes. The colour ranges from pale – very dark green, with either smooth, or warty skin, and the size from 15 – 30 cm in length.
It grows in oriental and tropical countries including Vietnam, Malaysia, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Japan, Indonesia, many Caribbean Islands, and South America. Up to recently, no one grew bitter melon in north America, but with demand escalating, several regions in southern USA started producing considerable quantities.
It can be sliced, and salted to remove its bitter flavour to some extent. Chinese and Indian cooks use it in stir-fries, stuff it with curried ground meat in Andhrah Pradesh, and with potatoes to render its blandness somewhat appealing.
Bitter melon has several medicinal properties including reducing blood sugar levels, insulin-like properties, saponins and peptides.
It helps the liver absorb ad reduce the level of sugar in the bloodstream, and increase the release of insulin from the pancreas.
sliced, salted, washed, brunoise-cut and mixed in salads is refreshing and healthy.
It is said to lower LDL cholesterol, enhance fat oxidation in the body, and lower triglyceride levels.
Bitter melon is a very healthy vegetable if it is expertly prepared and combined with other appropriate ingredients.