Now, I used to be the non Veggie type, the one who would frown at the sound of Veg night. Sometimes I would eat the veg “delight” in a quite manner, just for show, to satisfy my mum, who would otherwise fry my brain. Afterwards I would hide and steal some ham slices and chew it in the dark. To my defence, my parents would over do it with vegetables. I remember a time when we had every dinner Vegetable soup! Maybe that’s why I had no value for the healthy natural gifts but that was a long time ago too, now lots has changed, including my taste preferences.
One of the most extreme bitter tasting Vegetables in the world is the Karela fruit. In English it is mostly known as Bitter melon or bitter gourd, which I feel sounds a bit ugly. The name Karela is much prettier, which is Hindi by the way! There are other names for it too in different languages such as Karanti (konkani), Korola (Bengali), Kugua (Chinese), Nigauri (Japanese), Pavayka or Kayppayka (Malayalam), Caraille or Carilley (Trinidad and Tobago), Cerasee (Caribbean and some parts of South America), Melón amargo or Cundeamor Chino (Spanish), Margose (French) and Bittermelone (German). Botanic considers it as fruit but we call it all a vegetable/bhaji (Hindi). The fruit is first green and turns quickly into yellow shades with the seed inside transforming into a blood red colore. Karela grows on the floor on as a vine, just recently we had started to grow it from seeds. By now its already given small cute fruits as you can see on the picture.
Interestingly the Bitter Melon has a few great health benefits, and not only the fruit but even the leaves are used in India for example in the Ayurvedic medicine. The juice is prescribed, when digestive problems occur and to boost the immune system. Further it is used to lower the blood sugar levels (Diabetes), to fight Malaria, to destroy Viral diseases, to kill breast cancer cells and to reduce skin problems. It seems but that pregnant woman should stay away of it, since it can cause miscarriages. Otherwise it makes much sense to include Karela to your diet since it is rich in Iron, Calcium, Potassium, Zinc, Phosphorus and Vitamin C. Plus its low in calories, which makes it a great weight loss vegetable.
Karela requires a cooking technique so that it is eatable otherwise its simply too bitter! Some types of Bitter melons are less some more bitter, depending on that you have to help yourself by blanching, adding sugar, salt and other spices. Spices especially accompany the Bitter gourds flavours the best and change it all into an amazing dish. An other technique is to fry the Karela slices in oil till they are crispy dark, which is a common way of preparing it in local houses. I personally fell in love with one recipe plate, cooked by one of my husbands family restaurant cook. The cook is originally from Bihar/North India and he has been working on the coast for several years now. He really has a hand and eye for food, the passion is recognisable in each and every dish he plates up. He was excited too when I ask him if he could show and share with us his Karela recipe, which is by the way a non traditional preparation.
You can use this recipe in different ways. In India it is used as side with Rice, curry and fish, but you can have it plain too as main veg dish or it would be perfect too as Appetizer. I like to add it into my bread and eat it as a sandwich in between meals. This recipe is tasty and it will help you to get into the health trend, what more do you need?