Fruits & Vegetables
BITTER MELON (Balsam Pear, Bitter Gourd)
Bitter melon is actually a member of the squash family and resembles a cucumber with bumpy skin.
When first picked, a bitter melon is yellow-green, but as it ripens, it turns to a yellow-orange color. The inside of the melon is filled with fibrous seeds. Bitter melon is used mostly in Asian and Indian cooking.
Other names for bitter melon include: foo qua, balsam pear, or bitter gourd.
Select firm, unblemished melons that are from 5 to 12 inches in length. Choose melons that are still green for a more bitter flavor and a yellow-orange melon for a milder taste. Bitter melons are available fresh from April to September in most Asian markets and can occasionally be found in larger supermarkets. Some markets are beginning to carry bitter melons year round. They may also be purchased canned or dried.
Store melon loose in a paper or plastic bag in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. Slice the melon immediately before use.
Cut in half and discard the seeds and fibrous core. To reduce the bitterness, blanch in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. The skin is edible and the melon is not typically peeled. The seeds are also edible, unless very hard, and are included in some recipes. Bitter melon is commonly stuffed, curried or pickled. It can also be used in stir-fry’s and soups and may be steamed. Garlic or chili peppers are often added to recipes with bitter melon to offset the bitter taste.