Mountain Rose Herbs

Bitter Melon Fruit

Also known as

Momordica charantia, Bitter Gourd, Balsam Pear, Foo Gwa, Karela, Balsamina


The bitter melon is a tropical/subtropical herbaceous tendril bearing vine with yellow flowers, and is a member of the squash family. The fruit itself is oblong in shape with a pockmarked and warty exterior, looking like a cross between a cucumber and a gourd. It has a hollow cross section filled with large flat seeds and pith. It is grown specifically for the cultivation of its fruit, which is thought to be the bitterest edible fruit in the world. It is widely grown and cultivated in Southeast Asia, China, Africa, and the Caribbean. The seeds, leaves, and vines have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, but only the fruit is primarily used today.

Parts Used

The fruit in its entirety can be utilized.

Typical Preparations

Bitter compounds evolved in plants as a self defense mechanism to deter consumption by animals, though humans have developed a taste for the bitterness. The melon is typically stuffed, curried, or pickled and can also be used in stir fries, soups, teas, and beer. Garlic and chili peppers can be added to recipes to help offset the bitterness.


Bitter melon is a popular ingredient in Asian cooking, used to flavor diverse recipes including stir-fries, curries, soups, soft drinks and beers. The recipes vary from country to country, but it is a lively and important part of regional cuisine. Bitter melon is loaded with nutrients, high in vitamin C while containing calcium, iron, magnesium, and other essential vitamins and minerals.

The bitterness of the melon may make the fruit unpalatable to some folks, but the potency can be reduced by salting, blanching, or pickling. The fruit is generally consumed before fully ripening while the melon is still green.


Because bitter melon may lower blood sugar and insulin levels, it should never be taken in conjuncture with any form of diabetes medication, and then only under the supervision of a qualified physician. Avoid bitter melon during pregnancy. The seeds contain vicine, and may trigger symptoms of favism. Bitter melon may cause heartburn, stomach pain, and diarrhea, and make ulcers worse.

For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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