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Bitter Melon: Ampalaya (Momordica Charantia)

Updated on November 6, 2017
Bittermelon (momordica charantia)
Bittermelon (momordica charantia) | Source

Bitter melon which originated from the Indian subcontinent is a tropical vine, widely grown in Asia for its fruits and leaves.

Known as ampalaya in the Philippines, bitter melon is one of those vegetables that's always present and will always be in our vegetable garden. Ampalaya or bittermelon is not hard to take care of and although I'm not a fan of the bitterness, it is my first aid when my asthma is up for an attack. Widely cultivated for both the leaves and the fruits, ampalaya is an all year round vegetable. Although both the cultivated and wild bitter gourds are both edible, some says the wild bitter gourds, ovoid, jagged and has pointed ends are a bit bitter than the cultivated form which is oblong, ribbed and wrinkled textured and pale green in color.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Did you know?

* Bitter melon bears separate female and male flowers.

* Bitter gourd seeds when still developing is soft, not intensely bitter and can be cooked with the fruit.

* Bitter melon can hold into anything for support. (A photo below with a tendril reaching for soil particles.)

Ampalaya tendrils
Ampalaya tendrils | Source
Bitter melon leaf, mostly with 7 separated lobes.
Bitter melon leaf, mostly with 7 separated lobes. | Source
Young bitter melon fruit. Once fully ripe, turns yellow in color, opens up from the bottom and exposed the seeds covered in red pulp.
Young bitter melon fruit. Once fully ripe, turns yellow in color, opens up from the bottom and exposed the seeds covered in red pulp. | Source

Cooking with bitter melon:

* Bitter melon fruits are stir-fried with your choice of meat. I prefer it stir-fried with beef tenderloin or chicken.

* One of mom's preferred cooking of bitter melon fruit, or ampalaya is cooking it with cellophane noodles with or withour mung beans.

* The leaves are cooked in the soup-based dish tinola in the Philippines.

* The popular Ilocano dish pinakbet also consist of bitter melon along with other vegetables such as squash, long beans, jute leaves, okra, and eggplant.

* Aside from being stir fried, it is cooked either steamed or cooked in coconut milk in Indonesia.

* Bitter gourd is made into achar in Nepal, which is pickled bitter gourd.

* The whole fruit is boiled in Pakistan, and stuffed with ground meat and served with either naan (an oven-baked flatbread,) or with an unleavened flatbread called chapati, or served with tandoori bread.

Bitter melon or ampalaya leaves cooked with mung beans, cellophane noodles and meat.
Bitter melon or ampalaya leaves cooked with mung beans, cellophane noodles and meat. | Source

Poll time!

Have you eaten bitter melon?

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A male bitter melon flower being checked by an ant. Female bitter melon flower.
A male bitter melon flower being checked by an ant.
A male bitter melon flower being checked by an ant. | Source
Female bitter melon flower.
Female bitter melon flower. | Source

Bitter melon is a good source of phosphorus, iron, and B vitamin, calcium and beta carotene. It is also used as a folkloric medicine. It lowers blood sugar and detoxifies the body. And although I'm not fond of the bitterness, when I feel like an asthma is on its way, ampalaya, or bitter gourd is one of my remedies.

* The juice from the leaves is used to treat cough, cold, and is what I also use to help treat an oncoming asthma attack. But careful with taking too much juice as it can irritate the digestive tract.

* The juice is also use for purgative purposes to expel parasites out of the intestines.

* And for urethral discharge, the decoction from the ampalaya roots is used.

* For mouth infections or for toothaches, the warm tea infusions is used.

* For burns, leaves is pounded and applied to the skin.

* Bitter melon tea is used to promote lochia.

Other names for bitter melon:

* Ampalaya in the Philippines and also known as parya in the Ilocano dialect.

* Bitter gourd is known as yeoju in Korea.

* Kaakarkaya in Telugu.

* It is known as mara in Thai.

* Muop dang in Vietnamese.

* Balsambirne in German.

* Known as pepino amargo in Spanish.

* Paria in Indonesian.

Bitter melon juice.
Bitter melon juice. | Source

Why is bitter melon, bitter gourd, or ampalaya bitter?

* Bitter melon tastes bitter because of the compound momordicin that is present in the bitter melon plant.

To lessen the bitterness, soaking the fruit in salty water will do the trick. But as my mother says, why eat bitter melon if you will just rid of the bitterness, the more bitter it is, the better for the health.


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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I have some bitter melon pickles in my fridge right now. I try to eat it for its health benefits.

    • precy anza profile imageAUTHOR

      precy anza 

      3 years ago from USA

      @ Avian:

      Oh that's good. :) Hope you find some bitter melon there. Both fruits and leaves are available in Oriental stores here, and there's also ready tea if you would prefer that. :)

    • precy anza profile imageAUTHOR

      precy anza 

      3 years ago from USA

      @ Alicia:

      Hi Alicia :) I think it is an interesting plant, haven't tasted anything as bitter as this gourd. :) It helps with my asthma, I wish I can always deal with the bitterness to eat it regularly.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I must see if this is available at the Oriental grocery. If it is, I'd like to make a tea for the antibiotic properties. Sounds like bitter melon grows like an ivy. Thanks, precy anza, for a job well done.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Bitter melon sounds like an interesting plant. I was especially interested in reading that it helps your asthma! Thanks for sharing an informative hub.


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