Bitter melon is true to its name, with bitter flavor and an astringent quality if not well prepared.
Bitter melon is a fruit, actually part of the gourd family. It looks like a cucumber with a severe case of warts. There are quite a few varieties with variations in their own subtropic or tropic climates around the world. Bitter melon is a common ingredient in almost all Asian cuisines and plays a significant role in traditional medicine as well.
From a culinary perspective, bitter melon may be challenging to cook with if you have not done so before but it’s not impossible. It can be cored, seeded, and blanched in water to remove some of the bitter quality or it can be prepared similarly to eggplant by salting it and allowing it to rest. Once it’s been quickly blanched or salted and rinsed it can then be used any variety of ways. It can be added to soups, stews, stir fries, it can also be made into desserts, even tea.
From a health perspective, bitter melon has quite the history in the world of traditional medicine. For centuries it has been used as a digestive tonic, including treatment for things parasites and other microbial issues. It has also been used as an intervention for diabetes, menstrual disorders, and respiratory issues. From a western medicine perspective, studies show that bitter melon can have an impact on blood glucose levels however, there have not been consistent findings to suggest it is an appropriate replacement for medication or other therapeutic interventions. Bitter melon can be a stomach irritant if too much is eaten or it is not prepared well.