The bitter melon, or bitter gourd, looks like a cucumber with a horrible case of the hives. Its skin is dark green and covered in knobs, warts, horns, and generally pointy and unfriendly-looking protrusions. But behind this nightmarish appearance lies a fruit with serious healing potential.
Most research has focused on diabetes, as the bitter gourd can help lower blood sugar levels. Studies have also shown that extracts of the fruit can kill pancreatic cancer cells and that proteins from the plant can slow the progression of HIV. Research is ongoing to test the full extent of the bitter melon’s potential in these areas.
Seasoning the bitter-beyond-belief fruit is somewhat of a futile cause. But home-cooks around the world try desperately to mask its flavor in the hope of tapping into its health value. Often, the gourd is cut into rings or thin strips and deep-fried, or pan- fried with chili, garlic, ginger, onions, and salt.