Bitter melon is a member of the gourd family, and as the name implies, this tropical perennial fruit tastes very bitter. The bitter melon is a close relative of squash, watermelon and cucumber; it is sometimes referred to not as bitter melon but as “bitter gourd” or “bitter cucumber.” The green oblong fruit is found and used mostly in tropical areas such as Latin America, India, Asia and parts of Africa, and can be used for food or for medicine. You have several options when trying to reduce the fruit’s bitterness prior to use.
Blanche the melon. Core the melon by cutting the melon in half, then removing and discarding the seeds and fibrous core. Slice the fruit and then drop into a pan of lightly salted boiling water. Boil for one minute, then remove from the boiling water and drop immediately into ice water. Do not peel the melon -- the skin is edible.
Add salt. Core the melon as in Step 1, then dust with salt and let stand for 10 minutes. Rinse the slices thoroughly before use.
Pickle the bitter melon. Boil 1 cup of white vinegar along with 2 tbsp. of sugar, 2 tsp. of salt and 1 tsp. of turmeric. Drop sliced bitter melon into the mixture and boil for two minutes, then remove, drain and cool.
Prepare the bitter melon in a way that takes advantage of the melon’s natural bitterness by pairing it with complimentary food groups. For example, use it to balance out strong flavors such as spices, or as a coolant with rich sauces. This naturally reduces the fruit's bitterness.
Bitter melon is also sometimes used as a palette cleanser.
Roger Hamburg has been writing since 2010 and works in technical writing and pilot training at a US-based airline. Hamburg holds a bachelor's degree and is currently working on his master's degree, both in the aviation field.