As part of my recent trip to the Caribbean I would like feature “Bitter Melon” also called corilla, bitter gourd or karela among many other names. Bitter melon grows throughout the Caribbean, South America and Asia and is an important food source to the locals. In this recipe I refer to this vegetable as either bitter melon or corilla. As the name reveals it is very bitter, yet packed with powerful medicinal properties. Corilla has been studied all over the world for its beneficial health properties, yet it has not gotten the respect in the western world the way broccoli is looked at. I think this vegetable deserves much more attention and respect.
In fact bitter melon is so powerful, that people in the Caribbean and Asia using it as a folk remedy to treat and prevent chicken pox, measles, malaria and HIV. Studies have confirmed that corilla has anti malaria properties; however studies of humans have not been released. Studies conducted by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have shown that bitter melon could be used to treat certain cancers, diabetes, Aids, fever and infections. Although the cancer institute is warning that this vegetable shouldn’t be used as a medical substitute to treat any sickness.
Bitter Melon – Medicine or Vegetable?
We are learning now what other cultures have discovered many years ago without any laboratories. Bitter melon is a very powerful type of vegetable that indeed needs to be eaten with caution. Pregnant women should not eat bitter melon as this could induce abortion and in the same token it is given to women just before childbirth to ease the pain. How bizarre is that? By the way it is also used to treat painful menstruation. Now I sound like a doctor, who I’m not, but I think it is important to know. The red seeds (ripe corilla) shouldn’t be feed to children as they “could” be toxic. However when I discussed this topic with my wife; who grew up in the Caribbean, said she and her friends sucked on the red seeds all the time, because they were sweet. Nevertheless, I never use the seeds and discard them whether ripe or green.
You probably are saying why is he featuring this vegetable? Because it helped me in the past to feel good and could probably help anyone who is fighting cancer or diabetes. I was introduced to Corilla 20 years ago in Antigua and since than when I have a chance to eat it I will. That doesn’t mean I eat it every day, but rather once or twice a month. I actually grow bitter melon every summer in my back yard. Maybe I should say my wife is growing it and I reap the benefits :-). It is not the best tasting vegetable, but I feel good eating it.
Corilla can be cleaned just like melons. The seeds are easily removed with a spoon.
Whenever I prepare corilla I usually sauté it with onions and garlic and the juice of a lemon. The lemon actually takes away some of the bitterness.
- 4 small corilla, cleaned & seeded
- 1 large onion, quartered and sliced
- 5 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, quartered and sliced
- Juice from one lemon
- ½ cup of olive oil
- ½ of vegetable broth
- Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Keep a little oil for later.
- Sautee onions until almost translucent, then add garlic keep stirring.
- Add corilla and lemon juice. Let the vegetables caramelize slightly to give it some color and flavor. Season with salt, pepper and add vegetable broth, cover to give it a little steam. Cook corilla until little more than al dente, I don’t like my corilla it too soft. Towards the end add the remaining olive oil and incorporate gently.
Have you ever tried Bitter melon? Do you like it? Let me know. I love your comments.