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How to Cook with Bitter Melon

Sharon Palmer

You may have noticed the Asian vegetable bitter melon at the farmers market or even your supermarket, and it’s one that you might want to get to know a little bit better. Bitter melon has been linked to some health benefits, such as glucose lowering benefits, and it also has a rich nutritional profile, which includes vitamins A and C, folate, and fiber, all in a skinny 16 calorie per serving package. This vegetable in the gourd family is used in China, South America and India as a traditional medicine and delicious ingredient in many dishes. Read more about the diabetes benefits of bitter melon in my blog here.

I can find bitter melon at my local farmers market, and it’s so fun to experiment with this unique veggie. This cucumber-sized vegetable has a white-green bumpy exterior, but you can eat the peel. Bitter melon gets its name for a good reason, it’s really bitter! But you can do a few things to tame its bitter taste. My farmer at the farmers market tells me the lighter-colored bitter melons have less bitterness, compared with the deeper green-colored ones. In order to remove some of the bitter flavor, blanch sliced bitter melon in boiling, lightly salted water for one minute, and then drop in an ice bath before you use it in dishes. I think bitter melon is especially good in Asian dishes, such as stir-fries, egg rolls, and soups. Follow along with this step-by-step guide for how to cook with bitter melon below.

Step-by-Step Guide for Cooking with Bitter Melon

Wash the outside of the bitter melon, but don’t peel it!
Slice the bitter melon in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds from the core with a spoon.
Slice the bitter melon into thin strips.
Cook the bitter melon in lightly salted boiling water for one minute.
Cool it immediately in an ice bath, and then drain off the water.
 

Put bitter melon to work in this Chinese-inspired Bitter Melon Tofu Stir-Fry, and the subtle bitter flavor will give it just the right kick! You can also try bitter melon in miso soups, stews, and egg rolls. 

For other how-to cooking guides, check out the following:

How to Cook with Fresh Cranberries
How to Cook with Fresh Turmeric Root
How to Cook with Dragon Fruit

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