Region of Origin

Commodity:

Bitter Melon

Description & Origin

Bitter melon is a gourd in the same plant family as squash, watermelon, and cucumber. The fruit is roughly the same shape and size as a cucumber, but it is covered in characteristic spiky bumps or smooth ridges, depending on the variety. Bitter melon is picked un-ripe for culinary use, when the thin skin is still light-to-bright green, before it has turned yellow. Inside, bitter melon has a centra...

Other Names

Bitter Gourd, Balsam Apple, Balsam Pear, Bitter Cucumber, Fu Kwa/Ku Gua (China), Karela (India), Mah Rah (Thailand), Khổ qua/Mướp đắng (Vietnamese), Pare (Indonesia), Ampalaya (Philippines), Goya (Japan), Melón Amargo /Balsamina (Spanish), Assorossie (French)

Health Benefits & Nutrition

Bitter melon contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, and C, as well as zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, dietary fiber, iron, and folic acid. Abundant with antioxidant activity, bitter melon - depending on stage of maturity - can contain as many as 14 carotenoids, including ẞ-carotene and lycopene.

Bitter melon has been used in traditional Chinese, Indian, African, and Latin American medicine for centuries. The fruit is believed to remove heat from the body (yin), eliminate fatigue, improve eyesight, stimulate digestion, alleviate constipation, treat skin conditions, and lower blood sugar.

Most notable, studies have been conducted on the gourd’s extracts and their ability to mimic insulin and aid in the treatment of diabetes.

Our Varieties

Bitter Melon Chinese

Description

Chinese bitter melon has an elongated, cylindrical shape, similar to a cucumber, but with bulbous ridges. The smooth, waxy skin should be a very pale light green, almost white. The flesh is pale green and crisp when raw or cooked. The flavor is fresh and bitter.

Variety Tips & Tricks

Chinese bitter melon does not need to be peeled before use. Look for very pale bitter melons to avoid overly bitter fruit.

Commercial Availability (Grown for the US Market)

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Bitter Melon Indian

Description

Indian bitter melon is cylindrical in shape with tapered ends. The deep green skin of the fruit is extremely rough and bumpy with spike-like knobs. Its flesh is pale green and very crisp, but less thick than the fleshy Chinese bitter melon.

Variety Tips & Tricks

While Indian bitter melon does not require peeling, it is traditional to remove the outer knobs by scraping with a spoon or knife.

Commercial Availability (Grown for the US Market)

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
HONDURAS
Good
Good
Good
Good
Good
Good
Good
Good
Good
Good
Good
Good

Foodservice Tips

Traditional Culinary Uses

Bitter melon is most prevalent in Indian, Chinese, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Island cuisine, where it is considered both a health food and a delicious bitter pairing for rich flavors. It is most often pickled, stuffed, stir-fried, or incorporated into curries.

Flavor Pairings

Coconut, Tamarind, Tomato, Garlic, Onion, Zucchini, Ginger, Turmeric, Sweet Potato, Corn, Eggplant, Fish Sauce, Soy Sauce, Black Bean, Chile Pepper Flake, Cumin, Sugar, Salt, Pepper, Egg, Pork, Chicken, Shrimp, Anchovy

How to Store & Use in the Kitchen

Individually wrap bitter melons in paper towels and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

 

To prepare for most curries and stir fries, cut off the tips and slice long ways down the center. Remove the central seeds and pith with a spoon. The remaining flesh can be sliced into half-moons. For stuffing, the fruit can be cut into thick rounds and hollowed out or simply scored on one side so the pith and seeds may be removed through the incision. Bitter melon does not need to be peeled. To reduce the bitterness, cut bitter melon can be blanched – or salted, allowed to rest, and rinsed – before use. Bitter melons do not freeze well.

Fight Food Waste Tips for root to stem cooking

Unfortunately, the pith and seeds of the bitter melon are not used in the kitchen, as they may have some toxicity. If you come across a bitter melon plant, the leaves can be used to make a tea or wrap other foods to impart a light bitter flavor.

Warehouse Storage & Handling

Maintain these conditions for optimal short-term storage shelf life.*

IDEAL STORAGE TEMP:

50-54°F; *If overwrapped, fruits can be stored as low as 41°F

RECOMMENDED TEMP STORAGE ZONE:

40-54°F (Cool Storage)

SUBJECT TO CHILLING INJURY:

Yes – symptoms can include a water-soaked appearance, pitting, and brown spotting. Once returned to higher temperatures, decay may proceed very rapidly. Avoid storing below 41°F.

RELATIVE HUMIDITY:

85-95%

PRODUCES ETHYLENE:

Yes-Low

SENSITIVE TO ETHYLENE:

Yes-Medium

ETHYLENE RECOMMENDATIONS:

Keep bitter melon away from ethylene-producing fruits and ripening rooms.

RIPENS AFTER HARVEST:

No

PROFESSIONAL RIPENING RECOMMENDED:

No

Quality Assessment

Bitter melons should be firm and light-to-bright green with blemish-free skin. Bitter melons that appear to have yellowed or have red seeds were likely picked overripe or exposed to ethylene after harvest.

Important Handling Notes

Bitter melons have thin skin and can be easily damaged. Handle with care.

Optimum Shelf Life

Depending on variety, conditions at harvest, and handling, bitter melon may last up to 3 weeks.

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