Bitter gourd, which is also known as balsam pear or bitter melon, is an edible fruit pod that has a bitter taste. Even though it is bitter in taste, it has a lot of health benefits. Many of the health problems can be very easily prevented cured by regularly using this fruit.
Bitter melon is normally found in Asian countries. It is mostly grown as a crop and also as a backyard vegetable. It is a tropical plant that had its origin in South East Asia. It grows fast and is a climbing vine that has thin stems.
Bitter gourd has soft ridges that are lengthwise and has a surface that is not even. It can be light or dark green. The flesh inside is white and has seeds that look rough. The seed gradually hardens as the fruit ripens.
Following are Some of the major health benefits of Bitter gourd
- Bitter gourd has low calories and is rich in dietary fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
- It has phytonutrients polypeptide-P which helps in lowering blood sugar levels. The hypoglycemic agent named Charantin helps in increasing glucose and glycogen synthesis in the cells of fatty tissue, muscles and liver. In short, it is very beneficial to those who have type 2 diabetes.
- Fresh bitter gourd has folates in it. Neural tube defects in newborns can be reduced to a very large extent when pregnant moms consume bitter gourd.
- Vitamin C is also found in fresh bitter gourd.
- Those who face digestive problems can consume bitter melon regularly. This will help in relieving constipation issues as well as indigestion.
- Apart from this, it has B-complex vitamins, vitamin B-6 and minerals like magnesium, zinc, iron, magnesium and potassium.
Selecting and storing
This bitter vegetable is found in markets all around the world in any season. Just check for fresh ones with light or dark green colour. Simply reject those with blemishes and cuts. Tender fruit pods are better than mature ones.
Keep fresh bitter gourds in a plastic zip-lock bag and store them in the refrigerator in the vegetable box. In doing so, you can keep it fresh for a week.
Preparing the gourd and serving
Washing plays a major role, as the uneven outer skin can contain dirt. So just allow the vegetable to be washed under running water before you cut it open for cooking. Young leaves of bitter gourd can also be used for cooking. Mixing the right amount of salt and spices can lessen the bitterness of the vegetable. Marinating in yoghurt too can reduce bitterness.
It is known as karela in India and is used in many ethnic recipes. It is known as ampalaya in the Philippines and is widely used in many recipes. Many East Asian countries for preparing iced tea. It is also used for pickling purposes.
Some people are intolerant to quinine, medicine, saponin, glycosides and resins found in bitter gourd. To avoid toxicity, it is better to soak in saltwater before cooking, for 10 minutes. Excessive salivation, redness of the face, dim vision, pain in the stomach, vomiting, nausea, weakness of muscles and diarrhoea are the symptoms of intolerance of bitter gourd.