It looks like cucumber but with ugly gourd-like bumps all over it. As the name implies, this vegetable is a melon that is bitter. This vegetable-fruit turns reddish-orange when ripe and becomes even more bitter.
Bitter gourd thrives in hot and humid climates, so are commonly found in Asian countries and South America. Try it, at least for all its healthy virtues.
Bitter gourds are very low in calories but dense with precious nutrients. It is an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, and B3, C, magnesium, folate, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, and has high dietary fiber. It is rich in iron, contains twice the beta-carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, and twice the potassium of a banana.
Also known as bitter melon, it contains a unique phyto-constituent that has been confirmed to have a hypoglycemic effect called charantin. There is also another insulin-like compound known as polypeptide P which has been suggested as an insulin replacement in some diabetic patients.
If you’re thinking of adding bitter melon to your diet, make sure you limit yourself to no more than two ounces of bitter melon (or more than two melons) a day, as excessive consumption can cause mild abdominal pain or diarrhoea.
If you are considering using bitter melon for glycemic control, you should consult your doctor or healthcare professional first to check that it is safe for use alongside your prescribed diabetes medication, as there is the risk that taking bitter melon together with these drugs and/or insulin could cause hypoglycemia (extremely low blood sugar).
BITTER GOURD CONSUMPTION TIPS
- Choose unripe bitter melons that are firm, rather like a cucumber. Avoid those that have turned orange or have soft spots. Ripe bitter melons can be excessively bitter.
- Store bitter melons in the vegetable bin in the refrigerator to prolong their shelf-life. It can be kept in the refrigerator for three to four days.
- Keeping bitter melons at room temperature or close to other fruit and vegetables will speed up the ripening process making them more bitter.
- Clean your bitter melon under cold running water and brush with a soft vegetable brush. To prepare, slice the melon length-wise and scoop out the seeds. To lessen the bitter flavor, soak it in salt water for about half an hour before juicing or cooking.
- The smaller variety is even more bitter than the larger variety. To make bitter gourd juice more palatable, add a teaspoon of honey, or add another fresh juice such as carrot or apple juice. For diabetics, drink the juice with green apple juice.