Bitter Melon which is also known as Bitter Gourd or Karela is a fruit that has a distinct warty exterior and an oblong shape.
It gets its name from its very bitter taste but its widely consumed because of its many health benefits.
But sadly Bitter Melon is also very perishable this is due to its high moisture content which leads to rapid biochemical changes resulting in yellowing and spoilage.
So in this article, we will guide you on how to properly store the bitter melon fruit and the leaves from the bitter melon plants.
How to Store Bitter Melon for a Short term
- First, you need to wash the fresh bitter melon under cool water and then let it drip dry until there is no more water on the skin.
- Next, place the bitter melons in a zip-type storage bag and place it in the crisper of your refrigerator as soon as they are dry.
The bitter melon can then be stored in the fruit bin of the refrigerator for four to five days.
Bitter Melon is very sensitive to cold and should not be stored below 50 degrees F. You need to store bitter melon away from apples, pears, potatoes, and other fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas since it will cause the fruit to continue to ripen and become more bitter.
How to Freeze & Store Bitter Melon for a Long Time
Freezing slices of bitter melon is an easy way to store it for a long time if you are not planning to cook it, in the near future. And when you are ready to use it, just defrost it by placing it in the refrigerator.
- First, you need to wash and then dry the bitter melon completely.
- Next, cut the stem and bloom off the fruit.
- Bitter melon does not need to be peeled if you are planning to slice it thinly.
- Now you can slice the bitter melon lengthwise.
- Next, remove the seeds and scrape out the yellow pulpy material (pith) inside.
- Then thinly slice the melon into strips.
- And place the strips of the fruit into Vacuum Freezer bags and close tightly.
- Use a vacuum sealer pump to get rid of any excess air that will cause the bitter gourd to develop freezer burn.
- And if you don’t have a vacuum sealer pump you can skip this step, but try and get out as much excess air as possible.
- Also if you don’t have vacuum bags, you can use regular freezer bags.
- You can see how it’s done in the video below
For this method to work effectively, you would need a good vacuum sealer, I recommend using a handheld one, they are very affordable yet effective. You can click here to see the price on Amazon for the one that I use.
How Long Can Bitter Melon Last when Frozen
Frozen bitter melon can last three months in the freezer once stored properly.
How to Freeze & Store Bitter Melon leaves
The young shoots and leaves of the bitter melon may also be eaten as greens like spinach and also boiled to make a bitter tea.
While they are less popular than the fruit, the leaves are equally as nutritious as the fruit. However, just like the fruit, the leaves are extremely potent and bitter, so a little goes a long way.
And it is extremely easy to freeze the leaves to use another time.
- Firstly, remove the stems from the leaves with a pair of kitchen scissors.
- Next, rinse the leaves thoroughly with water.
- Then blanch the leaves by bringing a pot of water to a boil.
- Put the bitter gourd leaves into the pot for one minute.
- Next, remove the leaves from the water and immediately place them in an ice bath which halts the cooking process.
- And leave them there for two minutes.
- Dry the leaves by laying them on a kitchen towel while blotting them with paper towels.
- Place the leaves in a freezer bag. Remove as much air from it as possible before sealing it.
- Label the bag with the date that the leaves were frozen and place it in the freezer.
How to Properly Choose Bitter Melon or Karela
Another tip to ensure that your bitter melon can last a long time is to select good quality melons when shopping. You need to:
- Select bitter gourds that are free from dents and bruises.
- Try to get bitter melons that are thick and nice.
- Go for those that are greenish-yellow in color as they will not be too bitter
- Pick those that are half ripe as they taste better.
- When the bitter gourd ripens and matures, it will turn reddish-orange color, and the seeds will become bright orange. The more mature the bitter gourd, the more bitter it is.
- Avoid those that are soft, show signs of mold and rot.
- The grooves on the bitter gourd should be far apart which means that these bitter gourds will not be too bitter as compared to those that are narrow and dark green in color
How to Remove the Bitterness from Bitter Gourd
You can’t completely remove all the bitterness of Bitter gourd but you can tone down the intensity of the bitterness by extracting some of the juices.
Wash the bitter gourd and remove all the seeds and pith. The seeds are also extremely bitter and add to the intensity of the bitterness.
Slice the bitter gourd and sprinkle some salt over the slice.
Let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes, by which time the salt draws out a lot of the moisture from the pieces and the bitter flavors along with it.
Give a gentle squeeze to extract the juices.
Wash it under running water and squeeze again for better results.
Health Benefit of Bitter Gourd/Melon (Karela)
- Bitter melon is a good source of nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, Folate, and vitamin A.
- Consuming karela can help you get rid of acne, blemishes, and skin infections and gives you a healthy and glowing skin.
- Some studies have shown that bitter melon has been shown to improve several markers of long-term blood sugar control.
- Test-tube studies show that bitter melon may have cancer-fighting properties and could be effective against stomach, colon, lung, nasopharynx, and breast cancer cells.
- The antimicrobial and antioxidant properties present in karela juice helps in treating skin problems, blood disorders, purifying and removing toxins from the blood.
- Animal studies show that bitter melon extract may decrease cholesterol levels, which could help support heart health.
- Bitter melon is low in calories but high in fiber.
- Bitter melon has a sharp flavor that works well in many dishes.
While Bitter Melon can be eaten raw, it is best enjoyed while cooked in some form, you can make it into a curry or, add it to stir-fries, blend it to make juices and you can even pickle it to use as a relish or snack