Bitter gourd

 
 
Momordica charantia is known by a number of English Common Names including Bitter Gourd, Bitter Melon, Bitter Squash, and Balsam-Pear.  Perhaps the English names give a hint about its taste.


Bitter Gourd originated in India and has spread to much of Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean Islands.  In the case of the Caribbean I suspect it was brought by the Indians who migrated to the area or it may have come with the slave trade via Africa.  With the geographic spread came variation and the vegetable is now found in various oblong shapes.  The degree of bitterness also varies significantly.


Bitter Gourd is eaten raw (while green) being something like a bitter cucumber.  It is also mixed with other ingredients in salads.  And as I found in Bhutan when sautéed it makes a great vegetable dish.

 

While I was in Bhutan I experienced a new food, Bitter Gourd, Momordica charantia


In my travels I often find new combinations of ingredients which make for interesting and delicious dishes.  The Chili Cheese (Ema Datshi) of Bhutan fits this definition perfectly.


It is getting more and more unusual for me to encounter a completely different food stuff, however.  In Bhutan I had a great vegetable dish, rounds of a green plant sautéed with various spices.  The rounds were rough rings, indicating that the vegetable was hollow when grown.  It was tangy and the texture was interesting.  I did not know what it was.


In Kathmandu, Nepal I found the answer to the identity of my unknown Bhutanese dish - Bitter Gourd, Momordica charantia.




The botanical drawing of a Bitter Gourd (above) is from Francisco Manuel Blanco’s Flora de Filipinas. Según el sistema de Linneo (Flora of the Philippines according to the system of Linnaeus)” published in 1880 - 1883.


Apparently the gourd becomes to bitter to eat when it has aged considerably but the pith, which starts out to bitter, becomes sweet and edible at that time.

 

A new food for me - in Bhutan & Nepal