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Also known as
Karela, Bitter melon.
Momordica charantia is a tropical and subtropical vine of the family Cucurbitaceae, widely grown for edible fruit, which is among the most bitter of all vegetables. English names for the plant and its fruit include bitter melon or bitter gourd. The fruit has a distinct warty looking exterior and an oblong shape. It is hollow in cross-section, with a relatively thin layer of flesh surrounding a central seed cavity filled with large flat seeds and pith. Seeds and pith appear white in unripe fruits, ripening to red; they are not intensely bitter and can be removed before cooking. The flesh is crunchy and watery in texture, similar to cucumber, chayote or green bell pepper. The skin is tender and edible. The fruit is most often eaten green. The bitter melon more typical of India has a narrower shape with pointed ends, and a surface covered with jagged, triangular "teeth" and ridges.
Bitter gourd halves
Bitter gourd juliennes
With a sharp knife the gourd is sliced on four sides to create a thick rectangular stick, and then cut lengthwise into approximately 3 mm (1/8 inch) slices. Stacking these slices and again cutting lengthwise into strips creates thin uniform square sticks called juliennes. It is applied to deep frying or in stir fry techniques.
Bitter gourd peels
Peel the bitter gourd with the peeler and the peels can be later used in soups or therapeutic stews.
Chopped bitter gourd
To prepare bitter gourd for cooking, wash thoroughly, then cut in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a sharp spoon or corer and discard.Put the washed and peeled gourd on a chopping board and chop them in small 1-2 inch sized pieces with a sharp knife.The gourd can be chopped into big chunks or small pieces as per the recipe.
Chopped bitter gourd peels
Grated bitter gourd
This requires grating the bitter gourd (after peeling) in a hand held grater.
Sliced bitter gourd
Cut the gourd longitudinally to get thin or thick strips or slices as per the recipe.
How to select
Young immature bitter gourds are the best for cooking: the skin is bright green in color, the flesh inside is white, and the seeds are small and tender. The vegetable is ridged, and the skin is pebbly in texture. Do not use mature bitter gourds as they tend to be more bitter. Although it can also be eaten when it has started to ripen and turn yellowish, it becomes more bitter as it ripens. The fully ripe fruit turns orange and mushy, is too bitter to eat, and splits into segments which curl back dramatically to expose seeds covered in bright red.
· In the cuisines of South Asia and the West Indies, it is often prepared with potatoes and served with yogurt on the side to offset the bitterness, or used in subzis.
· In Punjabi cuisine, bitter melon is stuffed with spices and then fried in oil
· In the cuisine of South Indian state of Kerala, for making a dish called thoran mixed with grated coconut, theeyal and pachaadi
· In Andhra Pradesh, the popular recipes include curry, deep fry with peanuts (ground nuts), 'Pachi Pulusu' ( a kind of soup made up of boiled Bitter Melon, fried onions and other spices)
· Bitter gourd juice is a popular health drink, especially for diabetics.
· In Indonesia, bitter melon is prepared in various dishes, such as stir fry, cooked in coconut milk, or steamed.
How to store
To store bitter gourd, wash and dry them gently and place them in bags. They should last a week, when stored in refrigerator at 50° F. Both the fruit and the juice freeze well.
· Bitter gourd contains vitamin A, B1, B2, and C. It also contains minerals like calcium, phosphorous, iron, copper and potassium.
· From the ayurvedic perspective, bitter gourd is excellent for balancing Kapha. It helps purify blood tissue, enhances digestion, and stimulates the liver
· Folk wisdom has it that bitter melon helps to prevent or counteract type-II diabetes. A recent scientific study at JIPMER, India has proved that bitter melon increases insulin sensitivity and can lower elevated blood sugar levels.
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