Bitter Melon – Get Better, Get Bitter

Bitter melon is a great food for you to introduce into your diet this season. It is immune enhancing, great for blood sugar regulation, and has known anti-cancer properties (due to the alpha eleostearic acid inside the seeds).


What is bitter melon?


(Momordica charantia) Also known as Bitter gourd

This fruit (but traditionally used as a vegetable like tomatoes) is easy to incorporate into your spring diet. When you’re next in the supermarket look out for this lime green, warty skinned, shorter version of a cucumber and grab a couple. Use them in your next stir-fry, salad, or to stuff with your favourite fillings.

Traditionally, this unusual looking fruit has been used in Africa and Asia for many ailments including; fever, diarrhoea, painful periods, and topically for burns and other skin complaints.

Now it is being studied in much more detail and some amazing discoveries have been made about its health properties. The most significant research shows how it can help people with diabetes, insulin resistance, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), and even sugar cravings.


Health benefits of bitter melon?


Bitter melon has a high content of ‘lectins’, which are sugar binding proteins. These compounds lower glucose in the blood (similar to insulin) which acts on brain tissue to suppress the appetite.

So by including bitter melon in your evening meal, you may be less likely to eat that chocolate sitting in the cupboard.

Bitter melon is regularly used to treat diabetes. In The Philippines it is a primary form of treatment in hospitals. In Australia its full potential is being discovered, and is now available as a supplement in health food shops.

As for its immune enhancing properties, this bitter tasting fruit is traditionally used to treat parasites and viruses. For example, a well known remedy in Africa to prevent Malaria is a side dish of boiled and stir fried bitter melon with garlic and onion.

Also, USA, Japan, and the Philippines are all conducting studies on the anti-viral effects of bitter melon and some promising evidence has come out for these studies. For example, bitter melon is showing huge potential helping with HIV/AIDS, which affects an estimated 33.4 million people worldwide.


It’s easy to use!


So by this stage you might be thinking ‘how do I use this amazing fruit?’ Well let’s start with the basics.

When buying bitter melon make sure it is brightly coloured, firm, with no soft spots or discoloured patches but don’t be put off by its lumpy exterior. Once you get it home you can keep it in the vege crisper of your fridge (for no longer than 5 days).

To prepare it for a meal, wash thoroughly, cut in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds. Chop or slice as desired then sprinkle some salt on the fruit in a sieve and leave it for up to 10 minutes to draw out some of the bitter juices. The longer it’s left the less bitter it will be. After standing rinse well and pat dry before cooking.


Check out these recipes!


Bitter melon Salad



2 bitter melons (sliced)

1 carrots (shredded)

1 punnet of cherry tomatoes

2 tsp of dried shrimp

1 TBS toasted peanuts

2 red chili’s

1 lime (juiced)
1/3 iceberg lettuce (shredded)


Toss Bitter Melon slices, shredded carrots, dried shrimp, peanuts and tomatoes in lime juice and Hot chilli. Serve garnished with green lettuce.


Karela Andhra (Curry)


4-5 bitter melons

Salt to taste

4 whole red dried chillis

1 TBSP coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp white sesame seeds

1.5 TBS Coconut oil

2 medium onions chopped

2 tsp freshly chopped garlic

2 tsp freshly chopped ginger

¼ cup tomato puree

2 TBSP jaggery (Indian sugar, alternatively use coconut sugar)

2 TBSP tamarind pulp


Scrape and cut bitter lemon in half, lengthwise. Remove seeds and thinly slice. Apply

salt and leave aside for ten to fifteen minutes. Wash with plenty of water. Drain and

squeeze out excess water.

Roast whole red chillies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and white sesame seeds on

a medium heat until light brown, stirring continuously. Cool the mixture and then

grind to a fine powder in a mortar a pestle.

Heat oil in a wok and add sliced bitter melon and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes or

untill slightly browned. Add chopped onions and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes. Add ginger and garlic  and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes.

Add tomato puree and cook further for a few minutes. Add ground powder, grated

jaggery, tamarind pulp and salt. Stir well and add one cup of water and bring to a

boil. Reduce to medium heat. Cover and simmer for five minutes. Serve hot with

basmati/brown rice.


So bitter melon is now in season, try it out and you may find that ‘a little bit of bitter makes your body better’!