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Bitter Melon

Bitter Melon

One of the most nutritious and helpful vegetables is the bitter melon. Also known as bitter gourd, bitter melon is the most bitter of all vegetables. It is actually a fruit because of the seeds inside its green warty pod. It comes by other names such as ampalaya, karela, balsam pear and wild cucumber. It resembles the cucumber except that the bitter gourd has bumpy and warty exterior, like alligator skin. It is difficult to grow this tropical vine in winter countries like the United States. In most cases, it is necessary to buy bitter melon to benefit from its nutritional value.   Here are a few of the most common questions regarding bitter melon, which we have answered for you:

- Can I grow bitter melon in my garden?

Growing bitter melon vines in a few parts of the country is possible.

- Where can I buy bitter melon seeds?

Buy bitter melon seeds from Asian grocery stores or online. Remove the seeds’ outer coating by first soaking them in water until they swell.  Plant the seed only in moist soils that are similar to the soil gardens in frost-free countries. It grows best in sandy loam soil that is abundant with organic matter.  Planting in a greenhouse is best.

Vines need a trellis to climb. Build a sturdy trellis that is 2 meters high. Allow enough spaces between each plant so that the vines can creep freely. Prune side-winding vines so that all the nutrients go to the ones that climb up, as these are the ones to produce the melons.

Green, warty, elongated melons appear after a month. They typically hang straight down from their stalk.

- Is it worth my time?

Bitter melons and greens are so nutritious that it is worth the bother trying to grow them. They are packed with abundant minerals and vitamins that do not come in combination in most fruits. They are richer in beta carotene than the broccoli, richer in calcium than spinach, and richer in potassium than banana. It also contains zinc, folate, iron and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3 and C.

This plant can treat all sorts of ailments from minor (indigestion, constipation and menstrual pains, to name a few) to the most major illnesses (diabetes, leukemia and cancer). Traditional medical care in China and India believe that bitter gourd can improve one’s overall health and wellbeing. India’s Ayurvedic traditions advise the regular ingestion of bitter gourd to detoxify blood, improve digestion, and stimulate the liver.

- Do I need to taste it bitter?

Modern technology and advances in marketing have packaged bitter melon in tablets, capsules and caplets. Bitter melon teas and juices are also common commodities. Herbal medicines and bitter melon supplements are now popularized and widely distributed online. Search the Internet to learn where to buy bitter melon extracts.

For most people who have tasted and enjoyed the delicious bitterness of this vegetable, eating it in its natural form is still better than taking bitter gourd pills. It is quite a pleasure eating it raw in a salad with onions, greens and tomatoes or sipping hot bitter melon tea made from bitter melon leaves and shoots.

If you have not tasted bitter gourd, your palate has not tested a truly exotic taste and your body been truly nourished. Buy bitter melon at the Asian farmer’s market near you.

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