The bitter melon (also known as bitter gourd) looks like a cucumber but with ugly gourd-like bumps all over it. As the name implies, this vegetable is a melon that is bitter. There are two varieties of this vegetable: One grows to about 20 cm long, is oblong and pale green in color. The other is the smaller variety, less than 10 cm long, oval and has a darker green color.
Both varieties have seeds that are white when unripe and that turn red when they are ripe. The vegetable-fruit turn reddish-orange when ripe and becomes even more bitter. Bitter gourd thrives in hot and humid climates, so are commonly found in Asian countries and South America.
Westerners may not be so used to bitter melons, so may find them more difficult to consume. But if you can generally take bitter taste, you may be able to take this too. Try it, at least for all its healthful virtues!
Bitter gourds are very low in calories but dense with precious nutrients. It is an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, and B3, C, magnesium, folate, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, and has high dietary fiber. It is rich in iron, contains twice the beta-carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, and twice the potassium of a banana. Bitter melon contains a unique phyto-constituent that has been confirmed to have a hypoglycemic effect called charantin. There is also another insulin-like compound known as polypeptide P which have been suggested as insulin replacement in some diabetic patients.