Momordica charantia is the biological name of Bitter Melon. There are some synonyms of its biological name like Momordica chinensis, M.elegans, M.indica, M.operculata, M.sinensis, Sicyos fauriei. The plant belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. Plant, Fruit, and seeds are the parts we can use of Bitter Melon.
Bitter melon is a tropical and subtropical vine of the family and it can be widely grown because of its edible fruit. As the fruit is most bitter among the all of the fruits so that the fruit is called bitter melon. It is also known as the name bitter gourd and Goya in Japanese and also Karela or Karella. Yet the actual home of the plant is unknown but this is widely grown in India and some of the other parts of Indian subcontinent named Africa, China, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean.
The bitter melon’s vine grows up to 5m of height. The leaves are very simple and also alternate leaves from 4-12 cm. Also, it has 3-7 deeply separated lobes. The flowers of the plant are of yellow color. The looks of its plant are watery and also have an oblong shape. In cross section, this is hollow. Also, it has a thin layer of flesh. When the seeds are unripe they are white in color and when turns red becomes ripe.
The sweet and red bitter melon pith is a popular ingredient in salads of Southeastern areas. The flesh is watery as well as crunchy in texture. This is same like cucumber and green bell pepper. Also, the skin is edible and tender. When the fruit is green, it can be eaten as it is unripe at that time but some people even used to eat when it started to ripen and also change the color to yellow. At that time the taste of the fruit has become bitterer. A fruit which is fully ripening is of orange color and mushy.
There are a lot of shapes and varieties of bitter melon available in the market. The typical Chinese Phenotype has about 20-30 cm height and is pale green in color with oblong bluntly tapering ends. In India, the bitter melon which is found is of narrow shapes with pointed ends. The whole surface has triangular teeth and ridges. Also, coloration is white or green. Also, bitter melon has a bitter compound named momordicin which have stomachic effects.
Uses of Bitter Melon –Culinary Uses
- Bitter melon is used in Chinese cooking because of its flavor which is bitter. Typically, this flavor is used in stir-fries, soups and in tea.
- In India, bitter melon is very popular as generally, it is prepared with potatoes. Also, it is also served with yogurt. In India, people cut it and used to stuff spices and fry it n oil. This is a well known Punjabi cuisine. In Orissa, this is very popular, as here it is taken because of its health benefits. In Tamil Nadu, people used to prepare a dish named thoran with this. As for the preparation, they use grated coconut, theeyal and pachadi. Also, the resultant food is very good for diabetes patients. Also, soups made up of boiled bitter gourd are also very popular.
- In Pakistan, bitter melon can be found in the summer season and they used to cook the dish with a lot of onions. They also prepare this by cutting the edges and make small slices of the fruit. After sprinkling salt over it, they dried them under sunlight. When it becomes completely dry, they used to fry them with onions. They use a lot of spices after that as they add salt, red chili powder, cumin seeds, turmeric powder and coriander powder to it. After that add tomatoes to it. After covering the pan with lid, they used to simmer the flame and after 30 minutes the dish is ready This tasty, as well as a healthy dish, can be eaten anyway as it can either be eaten with chapattis or with yogurt chutney.
- Now a day the usage of bitter melon is increasing in Japan. Their Okinawan cuisine, it is used as a main ingredient.
- Also, in Indonesia, for preparation of many dishes, bitter melon is used.
- In Vietnam, slices of raw bitter melon can be eaten with dried meat floss and also used to prepare bitter melon soup. A popular summer soup in South is prepared by stuffing ground pork in bitter melons.
- In Philippines, a lot of dishes are prepared with bitter gourd. There bitter melon is also known with a name ampalayá. It can be stir fry with eggs, diced tomatoes or with oyster sauce. A popular dish of Philippines named, Pinakbet have been made up of with many bitter melons.
- In Nepal, Bitter melon is eaten in different ways. There it is used as pickle.
- The Bitter melon is very much popular in Trinidad and Tobago.
- Also, an Indonesian dish made up of bitter melons can be cooked with sambal, onion and also with red bird’s eye chili peppers.
Medicinal Uses of Bitter Melon
in Asia, bitter melon is used in the preparation of many traditional medicines from years. The reason behind this is the bitter gourd is helpful in stimulating digestion. For people who have sluggish digestion, constipation or dyspepsia kind of problems can take help of bitter melon to get rid of a problem. Also, sometimes, it can worsen the ulcers and heartburn. The reason is bitter melon is an emulcent and also a mild inflammation modulator. So, it is very much clear that the chances of having negative effects are very much rare. Even the clinical reports have proven the fact.
Bitter gourd is also helpful in preventing Malaria as bitter gourd has antimalarial activities. In Panama, Bitter melon has a name Balsamino and there the pods are of bright orange color and smaller in size. When the fruit, ripen, its seeds become sweet in taste. Then you can take hot water and brewed the leaves of the plant in it. Then separate water from the leaves, this water will be used as a resultant in a tea and this tea is best for Malaria and Diabetes treatment.
Many of the tests said that those have the problem of HIV positive can use bitter melon as this is effective for the treatment of the HIV infection. If you are in taking Bitter melon then it will slow down HIV in infected people. It is also helpful in improving the function of immune cells for the people with cancer. Some recent studies also said that bitter melon is helpful in increasing insulin sensitivity. Also, a study in 2007, said that it is helpful in lowering blood sugar level.