Excerpts from Passmore, Jacki. 1991. The Encyclopedia of Asian Food and Cooking. Hearst Books, New York.
is the fruit of a tropical climber, which has a warty skin and grows to a maximum length of 8 in (20 cm). The skin is light to bright green when immature, which is when it should be eaten. Its firm, green, bitter flesh is something of an acquired taste. The fibrous seed core is usually cut away, leaving a thin ring of flesh. The ripe melons are usually orange-yellow in color, although there is a white variety which, however, is less enjoyed at this stage of maturity, when the texture is less agreeable and the flavor indistinct. Bitter melon is highly regarded throughout Asia for its blood-purifying and system-cooling capabilities and is known to contain quinine. This makes it a valuable vegetable in tropical Asia, where malaria-carrying mosquitoes are a health hazard. It is cultivated for eating in India and throughout China and southern Asia. The Chinese cook it by braising or steaming, and to a lesser extent by stir-frying. A dish of sliced bitter melon stuffed with ground spiced pork is a popular Chinese dim sum choice. It is usually combined with strong-tasting seasonings, such as garlic and chili or fermented black beans. In India and Sri Lanka it is curried and made into pickles, and in Indonesia it is used raw in salads. Steeping the sliced melon in salt water helps to reduce the bitterness. Its young tender shoots and leaves can be eaten like spinach. Also known as foo gwa, mo gwa (China); karela (India); pare, peria (Indonesia); ampalaya (Philippines).
This resource is much more than a dictionary or encyclopedia. If you wish to know more about cuisines and associated recipes from individual countries, this would be an excellent resource.
Marks, Copeland. 1989. The Exotic Kitchens of Indonesia. Recipes from the Outer Islands. M. Evans and Company, Inc. New York.
is also known as balsam apple or balsam pear and is a tropical Asian vegetable. It has a green color and is shaped like a large cucumber with ridges and knobs around the exterior. The bitter taste can be moderated by cutting the melon (it is really a gourd) lengthwise, scopping out the seeds and pulp, slicing it in half moons, salting it for 5 minutes, and rinsing it with cold water. Bittler melon has a beneficial effect on diabetics and in folk medicine is recommended for gout and leprosy.
Kittler, Pamela Goyan and Kathryn Pl. Sucher. 2000. Cultural Foods. Wadsworth Thomason Publishing.
is a bitter gourd. Bumpy-skinned Asian fruit similar in shape to a cucumber that is pale green when ripe. The flesh has melon-like seeds and an acrid taste due to high quinine content (flavor and odor become stronger the longer it ripens.
Leung, Debbie and Mitch Mandel. 2005April/May. Asian infusion. Organic Gardening. 52(3). 34.
BITTER MELON (ampalaya, foogwa, muop dang, niga uri). This vegetable has a long history of medicinal use, and some studies have shown that it can lower blood sugar levels. Reduce the bitter flavor by harvesting young fruits and blanching them before stuffing or stir-frying. Use the young leaves and shoots in stir-fries. Bitter melon grows well only where the growing season is hot. Pam Ruch found the vine's fragrant yellow flowers and lush growth twining beautifully among her purple morning glories.
Excerpts from Hawkes, Alex D. 1968. A World of Vegetable Cookery. Simon and Schuster, New York.
Two representatives of the genus Momordica, of the Squash Family, are of some importance as vegetables in various parts of the world. The better known of these is the so-called Bitter Melon or Balsam Pear (Momordica Charantia), an inhabitant of the tropical parts of Asia and Africa which has become naturalized in the Antilles in this hemisphere. It is grown in many North American gardens as an annual ornamental vine, and its seeds-as of its relative, the Balsam Apple (Momordica Balsamina, of simlar geographic dissemination)-are available from a number of domestic sources.
The vines are graceful, with pretty lobed leaves of a particularly vivid green hue, inch-wide yellow flowers, and fruits of extraordinary characteristics. Bitter Melon fruits are especially prized as vegetables by good Oriental cooks and often are found in specialty produce markiets. Six to ten inches long and up to almost three inches in diameter, they taper at each end and are covered with blunt smooth warts. In their immature condition, while green, they are picked for culinary use. When ripe, they become bright yellow to vivid orange, and they split open, the three sections recurving from the apex to disclose the pulpy pith and numbers of showy bright-red-covered patterned white to brown seeds.
These red arils around the seeds are edible, and I considered them a particular delight as a child in Central Florida, where the plant is even today found to considerable extent in old gardens. The seeds themselves should neve3r be eaten, as they may be a violent purgative.
The unopened greenish-yellow or dark-green fruits of the Bitter Melon are boiled whole, or cut into sections and stir-fried; they are vaguely reminiscent of a bland squash, but with a decided degree of sourness. The young foliage makes a good potherb, steamed after rinsing and dressed with butter, possibly a touch of vinegar, and seasonings. And the mature vegetables, without the seeds, can be sliced and sauteed in butter or a light oil until just barely tender.
The fruits of the Balsam Apple, which are fatter than those of the true Bitter Melon and rarely grow longer than three inches, vary from smooth to somewhat warty. When mature, they become a splendid waxen orangew shade which makes a well-grown vine a delight in the garden. As a vegetable, this cucurbit is used like its more popular relative, the Bitter Melon (alias fu-qua, fooh-quar, or foo-gwa in Chinese, tsuru-reishi in Japanese).
Bitter melon's distinctive flavor is an acquired taste. It has been described as like bitter candy mints and refreshing.