This edible fruit is one of the most bitter vegetables produced. The elongated fruit has a rough exterior and a crunchy, watery flesh which is bitter. When the fruit is green, the skin is edible whereas the pith is removed before cooking. The pith becomes sweet and red when ripe and is used uncooked in various salads. Also known as bitter melon, it originated in India. It is eaten in the green or early yellowing stage. It looks somewhat like a cucumber (shape wise) with a spiky exterior.
Indian Bitter Gourd: It is recognized by point ends and a rough texture.
Chinese Bitter Melon: With a smoother surface, the Chinese variety is pale green with blunt ends.
Miniature bitter melons can be prepared with potatoes and yogurt to balance the bitterness. Stuffed and fried bitter gourds are very popular. It can also be steamed or consumed as juice.
Bitter gourds regulate blood sugar level, stimulate the liver, repair blood tissue and improve digestion. Bitter gourds are very low in calories.
Bitter gourd is also known as balsam pear.
Its leaf juice is used to treat alcoholism.