Bitter Gourd (Momordica charantia) or karela, also known as bitter melon in the Chinese markets, is a delicacy that is nutritious and is renowned to have medicinal qualities. It can be fried, stuffed, pickled, baked or curried. Varieties of this vegetable include those with very light, almost whitish green skin to the dark bottle green colored skin. Some are almost a foot-and-a-half, while others are just about 2″-3″ long. Cooking this vegetable seems to reduce some of the bitter taste.
We used Jawahar style bitter gourd in our iThottam. Jawahar is emerald green, quite bitter, a heavy yielder, 45-50 days from sowing. The vegetable is very low in calories, providing just 17 calories per 100g. Nevertheless, its pods are rich in phytonutrients like dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants.
This green melon that is shaped more like a cucumber has uneven grooves and a rough texture and is unlike any others in the melon family. It is also the most bitter of edible vegetables. Just as chili peppers vary in size and degree of heat, there are many varieties of bitter gourd that differ substantially in the shape and bitterness. The Indian variety is dark green and spiky while the Chinese variety is lighter in color with a bumpy peel. Some Taiwanese, Japanese and Filipino varieties are ivory to white-colored.
Bitter gourds grow on vines in tropical and subtropical climates. They are cultivated in most parts of Asia, Africa, South America and the Caribbean. They have a hollow center with a thin layer of flesh surrounding a seed cavity filled with large flat seeds and pith. Young bitter gourds tend to be bitterer than the ripe vegetable.
When a bitter gourd begins to ripen its color changes to shades of yellow, the interior has a reddish hue and it has less bitterness. When it is fully ripe it turns orange and splits into segments that curl back to expose seeds covered in bright red pulp. Bitter gourd is mostly cooked when green, or when it just starts turning yellow. The young shoots and leaves of the bitter gourd are also edible.
- Reduces Blood Glucose levels
- Lowers dietary carbohydrate digestion
- Reverses insulin resistance
- Prevents diabetic complications
- Excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, and B3, C, magnesium, folic acid, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, and has high dietary fiber