A look at some of the lesser-known fruits and vegetables available at the weekly Camana Bay Local Harvest Market
OTHER NAMES IN THE WORLD:
Bitter gourd, bitter cucumber, balsam pear, balsam apple, karela
When young, bitter melon is tubular or oblong and pointy at the ends, with a green and warty exterior and white interior. When mature, the exterior turns orange/yellow with seeds covered in bright red pulp.
When eaten unripened and young, the texture of the uncooked flesh is watery and crunchy, similar to a cucumber.
Bitter melon is mild in taste, but very bitter. When cooked, some of the bitterness abates.
NUTRITION AND HEALTH BENEFITS:
Bitter melon is low in calories and a good source of dietary fibre. It is rich in vitamin C and also is a source for vitamin A, various B vitamins, folates, and magnesium, potassium and zinc. It also contains phytonutrients that are known to lower blood sugar levels. Bitter melon has been used for centuries to treat various ailments in different countries around the world. Some of those ailments include diabetes, stomach and digestive problems including ulcers and constipation, coughs and other respiratory diseases, skin diseases, gout, malaria and rheumatism. Studies have also shown that it can inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells.
HOW TO CONSUME:
Bitter melons should be eaten young and unripe when they are firm to the touch. The skin can be eaten without peeling, but some cooks prefer to peel them. The seeds and pith are edible, but can be scraped out. Bitter melons can be halved, stuffed and baked, or sliced in rounds or half-rounds and then boiled, sauteed or deep-fried. Use them in curry dishes, stir-fries, salads or soups.
In Jamaica, the leaves of Momordica charantia are used to make a popular tea called “cerasee” or “cerassie.” It is sold in teabags and used a blood purifier, detoxifier and digestive tonic to treat various stomach and abdominal ailments. Because the tea is so bitter, sugar or honey is often added to make it more palatable.