Thursday, 29 January 2015
Bitter gourd, also known as bitter melon, is a vegetable that many people tend to shy away from due to the bitterness. While bitter gourd may be off-putting due to their bitter taste, when prepared properly, they make an appealing and nutritious vegetable that can be used in many different dishes. Bitter gourds have an array of wonderful health properties which make them a good addition to one's diet — I have talked about some of this vegetable's great health benefits in a previous post.
Occasionally, I can find bitter gourd at my local Indian store. When they are nice, green and tender, I never miss to buy them.
How to Choose
Bitter gourd is a warm season crop and is harvested in Summer. Harvesting is done while the gourd is still young and tender which is when the fruits are at their best stage for consumption. If you've never tried bitter gourd before, look for dark green tender ones that are firm to the touch. Mature and softer bitter melons tend to be a lot bitter and less tasty.
How to Prepare
One of the main process in the preparation of bitter gourd is the salting. It is recommended that you do not skip this part as soaking the gourds in a salt solution will remove much of the bitterness and will make them much more palatable.
The fruit has a textured skin and a spongy centre where the seeds reside. Depending on the intended use, the skin may be scraped off and the seeds removed. The bitter gourd can either be cut into thin round slices across the cross-section or along the length, then into thin strips. There is no need to scrape the skin or remove the seeds if they are being cut into discs and if you are frying the bitter gourd thoroughly. However, for some recipes, it is best to scrape off the skin and remove the seeds. I find that it improves the taste when the textured part of the skin is scraped off.
To scrape off the skin, just use a regular vegetable peeler and only remove the textured part. After scraping the skin, the spongy flesh where the seeds reside should also be removed. Next, rub the gourds with quite a generous amount of sea salt. Then, fill the bowl with enough water to just cover them. Leave them to rest for 10-15 minutes. After this time, drain the water and rinse the bitter melons well. Then cut them into strips of about 2 inches / 5 cm in length or as per recipe.
How to Store
Bitter gourds should be consumed within 2-3 days of purchase. They tend to lose their firmness rather quickly. They will also start to ripen and become more bitter if kept for too long. They are quite delicate and are prone to damage if not stored properly. So, store them wrapped in a plastic bag in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator for a maximum of 2-3 days.