Indian Bitter Melon ~ Beautiful Inside and Out
Most articles describe this piece of produce as ugly, strange, or exotic. Yes, it's wrinkled. Yes, it's spiky. But doesn't this give us a better sense of wonder about the world? What process, or processes, unfolded in this species' quest of survival whereby wrinkled, spiky, and bitter was the better way to go? Anything which reinvigorates my sense of wonder of the natural world is a good thing. As for the inside, there's little disagreement that most of us would benefit from the bitter.
To say that bitter melon is an acquired taste is understatement. But there are brave souls to be found, even in the US. At our last Farm Food Friday class we made a bitter melon saute with red bell peppers. Some said they liked it; others said they did not. Still, the serving plate was empty at the end of the night. Serving it up at Farm Food Friday is just one of my tactics to sell the nation on this bitter veggie. Why? I consider it almost patriotic, saving us all from elevated blood sugar levels and more. For more details on the benefits, check out Part One of our Bitter Melon series. If you just want to get radical in the kitchen, try cooking with the Indian bitter melon as seen above. The recipe below pairs Indian bitter melon with purple potatoes, garlic, curry powder and turmeric. Yes, it was bitter. But it was tasty, too. Balance out the sweet this season with a taste of the bitter.
Pan-Fried Indian Bitter Melon and Purple Potatoes Recipe
1 medium-sized Indian bitter melon
2 tablespoons of oil, vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
1 teaspoon of curry powder
2 cloves of garlic
3-4 small purple potatoes
1 small bunch of fresh cilantro
1-2 teaspoons of sea salt
Slice up Indian bitter melon as pictured.
Salt and leave for 10-20 minutes to help reduce bitterness. Cut purple potatoes in small quartered pieces. The smaller the pieces of potato the faster they will cook.
Add oil to pan, heat, and throw in mustard seeds until they pop (go on, it's fun!). Then add sliced garlic. Add potatoes and cook until slightly soft in texture, about 20 minutes. Add bitter melon, spices and saute until melon is softened. Serve with chopped cilantro.
Cook's notes: We added the seed pods. In hindsight we don't recommend. They were too bitter, even for this radical cook.