Bitter Melon
Bitter Melon

English Name - Bitter melon

Japanese Name -

Picture - Bitter melon seeds
Picture - Bitter melon ready for harvest
Picture - Harvested bitter melon
Picture - Bitter melon turned yellow and dropping red seeds

I really was not a fan of bitter melon at the beginning because it is so um....bitter. Go figure, they turned out to be one of my favorite things grown this year. Once you get used to bitterness, or, take steps to reduce it, this veggie is great in many stir fry recipes. You can also make juice but the best way to prepare them is Japanese style tempura. Another way to enjoy bitter melon is to sprinkle it with pickling salts.
Green Wall

I grew my bitter melon on trellises made out of bamboo, which is growing all over the place. The bamboo was used for both horizontal and vertical support. I then used jute to connect the horizontal bamboo poles. The vertical lines of jute were spaced at about 25 cm apart. The vines and leaves formed a beautiful "green wall" which gave us privacy on the entire front of our house.

The nice thing about using jute is the strings are biodegradable. Especially in this humid climate, the jute lasts for about 6 months and then is barely strong enough to hold together. At the end of the Summer season the jute strings simply pull away with the bitter melon vines when they are removed. The entire load can then be tossed into the compost pile.

Picture - Bitter melon growing on the bamboo and jute trellis.
This works out great when the cool season veggies are planted since, with the exception of peas, they do not require support. Then when Summer comes simply put up some new jute for the new runner bean vines.

Bitter melon vines are very prolific. The vines will easily take over any support you use in a matter of weeks. Each new vine should be tied, using jute or some other biodegradable material, and guided in the direction you want.
Very Bitter

The bitter melon vines produced a lot this year. I produced way more than we needed but we managed to eat pretty much everything, mostly as tempura. I basically cut the bitter melon lengthwise and used a spoon to scoop out the pith (the soft middle stuff holding the seed) and the seeds. Then I chopped up the two halves in the food processor. The chopped were pieces were sprinkled with a generous amount of salt and put aside for a couple of hours. I rinsed off the salt and then, using my hands, I tried to squeeze out as much juice as possible. The bitter melon was now ready for use in a tempura recipe.

Mistake: Be sure not to mix bitter melon vines with anything else in your farm or garden. I made the mistake of putting in runner beans and a couple of kinds of gourds with the bitter melon on the same trellis. Although the total area of the trellis measured about 12 meters long and 2 meters high, the three kinds of veggies soon mixed together and became a total mess.

Picture - A large and a couple of small bitter melon.

As an amateur farmer, I am constantly looking for information to make things easier, and to be more productive in my farms.

My best resource though is all of you REAL FARMERS out there. If you are growing bitter melon, please take some time and post a comment with your thoughts, suggestions, constructive criticism, and links to useful sites.

Your input will be greatly appreciated not only by me, but anyone else visiting this page. Thanking you ahead of time for posting.

For now check out the following links, which I found to be very useful.

Picture - Bitter melon seeds.
About - how to prepare bitter melon.
Asian Food Trail - 5 best bitter melon juice recipes.
China Sichuan Food - bitter melon juice.
Gardening Know How - growing bitter melons: learn about bitter melon plant care.
Harvest To Table - bitter melon: kitchen basics.
More Things Japanese - goya the bitter melon.
Wikipedia - general information about bitter melon.
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