Cooking with Bitter Melon and Reported Health Benefits
What is Bitter Melon?
That question crossed my mind when my husband and I were recently shopping for some fresh fruits and vegetables in an Asian market located in Houston, Texas this past week. We have been experimenting with purchasing some food items of which we are unfamiliar, and have made some nice discoveries along the way.
The large store is called the 99 Ranch and it is located at the intersection of Interstate 10 and Blalock. The parking lot is always filled to the brim and sometimes it takes a while to find a parking space.
A few other cubicles within the store are filled with retail shops including one that sells ceramic teapots and other Oriental décor items, an optical shop and another that sells purses and jewelry. One can dine inside of the store something we have not yet tried and there is a bakery. But the vast space of the store is filled with an amazing array of fruits and vegetables, aisles of different types of rices, noodles, spices and a myriad of other interesting looking offerings and a huge fish market and meat market in the back of the store.
It is a fun place for those who know all about Oriental food ingredients and wish to acquire what they need to prepare meals. The 99 Ranch is also a place for adventurous types who wish to learn more about Asian foods. We have been gradually experimenting with new additions to our diet and bitter melon was among some of my most recent purchases.
I noticed quite a few people adding bitter melon to their shopping carts and noticed that this wrinkly fruit was on sale, so despite the name I picked out 2 of them and sauntered through the rest of the store adding other things to our basket. While in the checkout lane I asked the lady standing behind us if she knew what to do with the bitter melons.
Her eyes lit up and she said that she primarily adds them to smoothies with various kinds of fruit. She also said that they could be sliced thinly and made into a salad with some vinegar and olive oil. She did advise that to cut a bit of the bitter taste, one could parboil the slices in salted water for a couple of minutes first.
So with that brief information in hand I created my version of a bitter melon salad. I often create my own recipes and love to experiment. I thought that it might be a nice accompaniment to some roasted duck that we were planning on having that night.
Ingredients to make bitter melon salad
- 2 medium bitter melons
- 1/2 to 1 large red pepper, sliced
- tarragon vinegar
- fresh chives
- fresh tarragon
- light olive oil
- freshly ground pepper
Instructions on making the bitter melon salad
- Wash and dry the bitter melon and slice off both ends.
- Using a sharp knive, slice through making small approximately 1/8 inch in diameter rounds. Remove any seeds from the middle.
- Boil the slices in salted water for a minute or two and drain in a colander rinsing with cold water. Dry on paper towels.
- Slice a half of a large red pepper or more, if you like, into strips and add to a bowl along with the bitter melon.
- Add a small amount of fresh garden chives and some fresh tarragon (all according to your taste) to the mixture. Chop the chives and cut or tear the tarragon leaves into several pieces depending upon the size of the leaf.
- Sprinkle a little tarragon vinegar and light olive oil over the mixture (about 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar) and season to taste with salt, freshly ground pepper and a dash of sugar.
- Chill in the refrigerator as desired or immediately plate and serve.
Nutrition of bitter melon all by itself
|Serving size: 1 cup (93 grams)|
|Calories from Fat||0|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 0 g|
|Saturated fat 0 g|
|Unsaturated fat 0 g|
|Carbohydrates 3 g||1%|
|Sugar 0 g|
|Fiber 3 g||12%|
|Protein 1 g||2%|
|Cholesterol 0 mg|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
Health Benefits of Bitter Melon
Bitter melon goes by many different names, some of which include the following: Bitter apple, Karela, Bitter gourd, Wild cucumber and balsam pear just to name a few. The scientific name is Momordica charantia.
Growing in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of Asia, Africa, India, China and even the Caribbean, it is a perennial plant known by many naturopathic healing practitioners for its benefits in treating and possibly even preventing many different diseases.
Some of the claims relate to addressing some of the following conditions:
- Type two diabetes
- Digestive aid
- Certain types of cancer
- Anti-malarial qualities
- Viral infections
- Menstrual disorders
- HIV and AIDS
Bitter melon salad
Disclaimer: In no way is any of the information presented in this article intended to take the place of good medical advice. Please consult your healthcare practitioner for more information about using bitter melon in your diet.
Karela - Bitter Melon (Another way to prepare and serve bitter melon)
Curiosity Killed the Cat
Remember that old saying?
While this amazing plant and gourd-like fruit is reputed to have health benefits, one must always be safe rather than sorry when it comes to taking advice from non professionals. After all we do not have nine lives like cats are reputed to enjoy.
Some of the precautions to be taken according to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center should be heeded! Pregnant women should not be consuming bitter melon nor should children be eating the seeds.
The health benefits are exciting and apparently many universities and health institutions have people studying the bitter melon's beneficial effects on humans. More worldwide studies are scheduled to be conducted.
Is the bitter melon rightfully named? Yes indeed! It is bitter and is certainly an acquired taste. After the salad that I made had marinated in the juices another day it seemed milder than at first when initially eaten.
There are many other recipes some of which incorporate ground meats and plenty of spices that I might try in the future. Soaking the bitter melon in salt first and then squeezing the liquid out of it and then rinsing it in several batches of water might also help reduce the bitterness.
Am I ready to try more Asian foods from the 99 Ranch store? Absolutely!
It is fun trying new foods and whether they are instantly appealing or one needs to learn how to coax the more appetizing flavors from them it is an inexpensive culinary adventure that can tantalize the tastebuds and enrich one's food knowledge from around the world.
Do you think that you will be trying some bitter melon recipes?
If you are convinced that there are health benefits to consuming bitter melon but wish to avoid that truly bitter taste, then taking capsules might be the answer.
© 2012 Peggy Woods