Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bitter melon

While I lived in Thailand one of my favourite Thai soups had as its solid ingredient bitter melon often stuffed with a meat such as pork. Bitter melon is now readily available in most Australian fruit markets – particularly those with Asian customers. I have read that it has been suggested as a cure for HIV and other ailments. I have also read that the group of Japanese people who live on Okinawa – the longest lived people on earth overall – eat a lot of the melon.

Now I learn this morning that it helps people deal with the chronic disease Type 2 diabetes by helping the disposal of glucose in the bloodstream. It also apparently helps deal with obesity.
Bitter melon extract can be purchased as a supplement though I have no knowledge of this.

The melon itself is an unusual tasting food – it is indeed bitter – but it might have a ‘no regrets’ medical potential. I wonder whether you can get seeds or seedlings and grow it yourself?

Update: Reader Lee pointed me to this informative discussion of bitter melon on last night's 7.30 Report. Reader Slim pointed to this source for seeds which I will follow up. Finally this source gives details for growing in Australia - in my home town of Melbourne only in the summer months with planting in late October. Mainly a tropical sort of vegetable.


APU said...

Yes Harry, I saw the report as well.On the sub-continent, the bitter melon or gourd is eaten ina lls orts of (mostly vegetarian ways.Crisps, stews, stir fried etc. Thew orstw ast he juice that you were forced to drink if you got "jaundiced". Similarly, older folks would ritually drink the juice (with some ginger juice and salt added)tow ard off diabetes and high cholesterol.There is of course the other very bitter vegetable - the Neem, that has all sorts of fantastic charechtaristics. It has now been "patented" by a pharmaceuticals firm and is set to produce all manner of pharma products. Happy to send through a recipe if you want one!

hc said...

Send me the recipes please.

Will these plants grow in cooler climates? Can you buy seeds/plants here?

Slim said...

I first tasted bitter melon as karela in West Bengal, presented as fried crisps on the edge of your banana leaf plate to be eaten before the meal to aid digestion.

I've recreated these at home on many occasions and they are certainly the yummiest way of eating them.

I place thin slices (sharp knife so the seeds stay in) separately in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle lightly with salt. Leave for 10-20 minutes. You can them wash them, or not. I then sprinkle over them a smidgen of chickpea or besan flour and some tumeric. Toss them about so the slices are more or less coated/dusted (they'll be a bit soggy).

Deep fry (turning slices as you go) until golden brown and starting to crisp up. Remove, drain and allow to cool.

My then 8 year old son loved them (and still does).

Don't know where, but I imagine you could track down the seeds. Or you could just keep some seeds from an actual bitter melon (assuming the local product are not sterile hybrids or GM!)

Slim said...

Found this, Harry.

And a link to my old mate Kurma

Apu said...

Yup Slim, Karela it is in Hindi.Next time you may want to try to first blanch the slices in boiling salt water dry them, ideally in the sun, oven will do and bottle them.You can then fry a handfull when you want. The bitter melons in Australia have seeds in them so I would assume yes they would, they seem to grow a bit like Chokos and end up growing everywhere from memory.