Posted on 23 Comments

Bitter Melon - Much More Than A Strange and Bitter Fruit

Photo by Lothar Bodingbauer on Unsplash
Bitter melon! 

A staple of my childhood. Though I could not appreciate its goodness until much later in life.

Back then I was not a fan of the taste.

It is bitter! 

But whenever my grandma cooked bitter melon or, anything else for that matter, you ate it without question.

There was no room for argument.

Bitter melon grew in abundance during my young years. There were several empty lots around the home I grew up in.

Bitter melon grows on a vine and, one side of the fence was always littered with the stuff.

It was everywhere!

No one ever actively planted the karela (bitter melon), it was as perennial as the grass around. It just was.

I would later come to understand that the ripe vegetables would shed their seeds. These seeds would be scattered by one way or another, so an effortless truce was in place. Karela was always in abundance.

My mother, God bless her love to drink the juice of karela and she does so to this day. She would steam the vegetable and drink the bitter juice.

The folks from my world were almost never ill, they died in a good old age with all their working parts.

Older and wiser

As I matured and became a healthcare professional I would wonder about my childhood and the health of the older population versus the sickness I see in the new world. I am in a unique position to observe the ills that plague the population old and young.

I began looking into the foods and activities I grew up with to see where some benefits may lie.

Bitter Melon

Bitter melon is an interesting fruit, it grows on a climbing shrub and is found in many parts of the world. The fruit is also found in tropical South America, Asia, East Africa, and the West Indies.

It is from a family known as Cucurbitaceae (bitter properties), scientifically called Momordica charantia. Karela has several known species.

Though bitter melon is a fruit, it is utilized as a vegetable in many parts of the world. It is also used as a traditional medicinal plant for the treatment of various diseases in Bangladesh as well as other developing countries like Brazil, China, Colombia, Cuba, Ghana, Haiti, India Mexico, Malaya, Nicaragua, Panama, and Peru.

Composition of bitter melon

Perhaps its most common traditional use is in the treatment of diabetes. Other diseases bitter melon is used to treat are; dysmenorrhea, eczema, emmenagogue (stimulate blood flow to the pelvis), galactagogue (promote lactation), gout, jaundice, kidney stone, leprosy, leucorrhea, piles, pneumonia, psoriasis, rheumatism, and scabies.

Momordica charantia is also documented to possess abortifacient, anthelmintic, contraceptive, antimalarial, and laxative properties.

Bitter melon extracts are effective against cancer and were found to be effective in the treatment of ulcers, pain and inflammation, psoriasis, dyslipidemia, and hypertension. 

Momordica charantia also contains biologically active chemical compounds such as glycosides, saponins, alkaloids, fixed oils, triterpenes, proteins, and steroids. Several other biologically active chemical constituents have so far been isolated from different parts of the plant, including the leaves, fruit pulp, and seeds.

Karela is reported to contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals, that is, glycosides, saponins, phenolic constituents, fixed oils, alkaloids, reducing sugars, resins, and free acids.

The immature fruits are also a great source of vitamin C, vitamin A, phosphorus, iron, and contain insulin-like properties.

Aids in the: — 

  1. The reduction of body fats prevents the hypertrophy of fat cells.
  2. Increases insulin secretion and prevents insulin-producing cells from damage
  3. It inhibits the increase of blood glucose levels.
  4. Decreases liver inflammation (prevents fatty liver).
  5. Promising as an antioxidant.
  6. Anti-infective properties.
  7. Helps fight against cancer.

The bitter fruit contains many essential vitamins and minerals, namely: —

  • Carbs
  • Fiber
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A
  • Folate
  • Potassium
  • Zinc
  • Iron

How the bitter gourd may be prepared: — 

Bitter melon is sliced thin then prepared fried with various meats then eaten with rice. Another way is to have it stuffed with meats or vegetables.

When ripe the bitter melon takes on an orange color and becomes quite sweet. The ripened fruit may be used to make a drink which is quite delicious.

Bitter melon stuffed and cooked
Image credit: Pinterest
Bitter melon sliced thinly and cooked
Image credit: Pinterest

Now I will be the first people to tell you the bitter taste is an acquired one. But once you learn to appreciate its many splendors, bitter melon is to be enjoyed.

So, think of the health benefits …


Stay curious, while staying safe.

23 thoughts on “Bitter Melon - Much More Than A Strange and Bitter Fruit

  1. Thank you for a great share, Pene. And, yes, I too remember fried bitter melon growing up. We call it Karilee. It is still a favorite for me. I like bitter, for some reason, always have. 😊

    1. Yes it is good once you acquire a taste for it. We grow it each year here in TX.

      1. Thank you Pene for your shares. They often remind me of good memories. Stay safe. Blessings to you.❤🌈🌱

  2. Pene, A very interesting post. I have taken blood sugar supplements containing bitter melon. Maybe I should try them again. 🙂 Hope all is well with you and your family! <3

    1. Hello my dear friend, I hope you and your family are well.
      Very interesting. When I began doing some research for this post I realize they sell the extract in pill form.

  3. Pene, in addition to being a healthcare professional, you are an educator! I always learn something from your blog posts. I learned a lot today because I’d never even heard of bitter melon. What an amazing fruit! I wonder why God made it so unpleasant to the taste. Of course, the same thing could be said about lemons and Brussels sprouts. My mind meanders in interesting ways.

    1. Lol, you made me laugh. It can be unpleasant, but apparently that is the healing quality.
      I have a few questions for God as well. We will get our chance to know the answers some day.
      Stay well.

  4. Informative. I am just getting to know of this. 😊

    1. Hello sis. Are you familiar with this fruit?

  5. I’m quite sure such a healthy diet impacts our aging process. An interesting cucumber

    I’ve been veggo for decades and am med free … I meet others my age and am shocked by their health issues. So good diet and regular exercise pays off long term I assure you!

    1. A plant based diet is the best way, it is what we were meant to do.
      I am transitioning, a little slowly, lol.

      1. big thing is to keep the protein balanced otherwise you desperately crave meat and must eat it. Cutting back on meat helps too, so do it gradually 🙂

        How are you Pene? Any covid repercussions? Most say they have chronic side effects 🙁

        1. I have had some terrible headaches, migrane-like. I had never been prone to migraines prior to COVID, they are getting less praise God. But sometimes they wake me from sleep and last all day. Otherwise nothing else, God is good.
          And I still have antibodies, got tested last weekend at work and still have those protectors present- 8 months later.
          But I will be getting the shot at work.
          My co worker had COVID and has a lot of residual effects left over.
          I appreciate you so much.

          1. so very glad you are healing well … take care, HUGS!

  6. I’ve NEVER heard of bitter melon and feel like I’ve been living under a rock 🪨😂

    Will need to try someday but I’m not a confident cook – would rather eat it at a friends house or restaurant 😆😉

    Great post Pene ❤️🤗

    1. Thank you. Have a blessed weekend.

  7. Love this vegetable. Good post!

  8. Thanks for your post!

    1. Hello my friend, I pray you are keeping well.

      1. Thank you so much!

        1. Good to hear.

  9. This looks so exotic, when we grow our own food without harmful pesticides we are much healthier.

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