The Legend of Bitter Melon (Momordica Charantia)
Bitter gourd or bitter melon is one of the vegetables that is commonly grown in the Philippines and is easy to take care of. Not only both leaves and fruits are both edible and preferred for Filipino vegetable dishes despite the bitterness, momordica charantia also has many health benefits.
Living back in the Philippines, my parents would always grow bitter melon. I'm not fond of the taste as it is bitter, but I was always told to eat it as it is good for me. And whenever I wasn't feeling very well and I know I was about to have an asthma attack, I would pick few bitter gourd leaves, heat it up, and extract the juice for consumption. I wasn't fond of the taste but I would rather deal with the bitterness than having to catch up with my breath. Or, I would boil some fruits which I learned from my mom and eat it. I find it amusing that this really works specially the first time I've done this and this was my first winter season as I didn't catch any cold or cough like I usually get when the weather gets cold. My asthma didn't bother me either.
But, why is the bitter melon bitter? Where did the bitterness of bitter gourd come from? Here is a legend that could explain why.
A long time ago, there was a town for all the vegetables. So we can say it is a vegetable town, right?! The vegetables were happy, they could play, run around, giggle and just have fun with fellow vegetables. It's such a haven for them.
Squash has the sweetness and tomato which has a silky skin loves running around. Ginger has its unique hotness while radish can be compared to the moon when it comes to color. And of course, green mustard has this fresh greeny look and sponge gourd has an even roughness of a beautiful skin. Not only them, there's jicama too which has a unique crunchiness, onion has a thin skin that could make one teary-eyed, and there is eggplant with the deep purple color. Every single one of them is just special and they can be proud of that.
In this vegetable town, all other kinds or species just continue on sprouting which the rest of the other vegetable welcomes happily.
One of those new sprouts was bitter melon. Bitter melon was different from the rest as far as the pale color of its skin and the unexplainable taste.
The following days, bitter melon started feeling jealous towards the other vegetables in the town. The fellow vegetables accepted bitter melon and wants to spend time together having fun like the other usually do. But bitter melon just keeps on pushing them away.
One day, vegetables such as tomatoes and sponge gourd along with the rest, calls on bitter melon to play with them. But as usual, bitter melon doesn't want to spend any time with them.
"Don't you all come near me! I don't want and need any of you! Leave me alone," bitter melon was so irritable. And because bitter melon keeps on pushing all away, the rest of the vegetables in town did as bitter melon wished. They didn't talk or bother the grumpy bitter gourd at all. Bitter melon should have been happy, but not. Jealousy and hatred got the vegetable more and more.
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One night, jealousy got the best of bitter melon as thought of some wicked plan formed in its mind against the rest of the vegetables.
"I want to have a better skin color, I don't want to be pale. I want a special taste and beauty just like the others in here. And better more, I want to surpass whatever qualities they all have," bitter melon thought to itself.
And to the deepest of the night, bitter melon fulfilled its wicked plan. Bitter melon was so quite and careful to every steps taken. The jealous vegetable quitely crawled under the trellis of the other sleeping vegetables such as sponge gourd. The plan? To get all the good qualities of each and every vegetables in town.
Bitter melon got the sweetness of squash, took the skin of the sleeping radish, the unique hotness of ginger. Not only that, the smoothness of tomato was also taken, roughness of sponge gourd, the purplish skin of eggplant, and even the thin skin of onion. The crunchiness of jicama had also been taken.
After all the good qualities of all other vegetables was taken, bitter melon was so happy. The bitter gourd is going to have all those for itself.
"Now, we'll see. You all are going to be jealous this time and not me."
The following day, there goes the news of the huge robbery. The vegetables went to a meeting regarding on what happened that night. But then, the meeting was set aside when a strange, new vegetable appeared before them. The foreign vegetable has different skin color, a mixed of smoothness and roughness, and all the good taste a vegetable should have. All the attention of the vegetables went toward the new visitor in town. Unknown to them, it wasn't a new, or foreign vegetable, it was all bitter melon! Deep inside, the jealous vegetable was full of contentment, and happiness for all the attention and popularity that its gaining in town.
But as the saying goes, "there's no secrets that won't be uncovered," it suits well with bitter melon as the vegetables in town became suspicious. Suspicious in a way that a foreign vegetable would just show up out of thin air after the huge robbery.
With the headship of tomato, the vegetables followed the foreign vegetable one night as it goes home on its trellis. They all watched as the foreign vegetables prepared itself for the night and took off the colorful skin and other good qualities that its wearing. Alas! It was bitter melon!
Bitter melon got arrested for the robbery and has to face the fairy that's governing the vegetable town and now facing a trial.The fairy on the other hand, made a promised that everything will be back to normal. The vegetables in town will all get back the good qualities stolen from them.
"The perfect vegetables which will have all the good qualities hasn't been created yet. You made a big mistake bitter melon," said the fairy.
"As your punishment, you can keep all the qualities you had stolen from your fellow vegetables." Hearing this made bitter melon secretly happy.
"And just what kind of punishment was that?" the cunning bitter melon thought to itself.
After the trial, all the qualities that was stolen to each and one of the vegetables was returned back to them, their taste, skin, and beauty, just like the fairy's promised. And just when bitter melon was about to celebrate as it thought it got away from the crime that was done, something happened. All the stolen tastes inside got all mixed up. And the smoothness and roughness of the stolen skins resulted to a wrinkled skin.
Since then, the bitter melon hasn't been unpleasing to the eye, and the taste, wasn't unlikable either. It taste bitter. Bitter melon repented and became humble. But punishment set aside, behind all the bitterness lies all the nutrition in this vegetable which now was used as an alternative remedy.
More About Momordica Charantia or Bitter Melon
- Bitter Melon: Ampalaya (Momordica Charantia)
Bitter melon, bitter gourd, or ampalaya. Photos and some interesting things to know about this vine grown in the Caribbean, Africa, and in Asia.