The Bitter Melon Experiment, Part One

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Bitter Gourd (Japanese Variety), aka Bitter Melon

 I am trying an experiment this year in growing Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia), also know as Bitter Gourd. I’ll be posting updates on this experiment throughout the year, letting my readers know the progress, for good or bad. This article (Part One) will introduce people to Bitter Melon, and why I am conducting this experiment. If successful, Bitter Melon could be an important vegetable to include in survival gardens due to its possible medical uses.

If you haven’t heard of Bitter Melon, it is an Asian vegetable which looks similar to a large and very wrinkled cucumber. It is in the same botanical family as squashes and gourds. It has a somewhat bitter taste (the more ripe it is, however, the less bitter). 

Bitter Melons grow on vines that can reach 12′ to 16′ in length under optimal growth conditions, so it is suggested that it be grown along a fence or using trellises. Typically, Bitter Melon is gown in tropical regions of Asia and the Caribbean. It will be interesting to see if I can grow it successfully in North Carolina. 

As a vegetable, it can be eaten raw, added to salads, or cooked into  variety of dishes. It can also be juiced.

The traditional Okinawan dish goya chanpuru (photo by Nesnad)

Possible Health Benefits and Medicinal Purposes

As you may know, I am a diabetic (non-insulin dependent).  So I am always searching for possible natural and alternative treatments for diabetes. In any disaster or post-collapse situation, folks may not have ready access to insulin and other diabetic medications, and be forced to make do as best they can until access is restored. 

Bitter Melon may hold some potential as a possible emergency replacement for insulin or other diabetic medication. According to my online research, Bitter Melon contains a chemical compound (Polypeptide-p) that acts similar to insulin and appears to have a hypoglycemic effect that may reduce blood sugar levels. According to several articles I’ve read, this only works if the Bitter Melon is consumed raw or in juice form. According to those articles, the powdered Bitter Melon that you can buy in capsules at health food and vitamin stores is not effective in lowering blood sugar. 

In addition to  its potential benefits to diabetics, Bitter Melon also has other health benefits. It has significant amounts of Vitamin C, Folate, and Zinc, as well as smaller amounts of various other nutrients. Bitter Melon may also have certain anti-cancer benefits and may help protect against heart problems.

Please research these potential health benefits for yourself. You can check out the articles on Bitter Melon at WebMD, Wikipedia, Bonnie Plants, LiveStrong, Dr. Axe, and Dr. Andrew Weil, among others.

Last week, I received the Bitter Gourd seeds that I ordered through Amazon (for only $2.95 with free shipping!). I will be planting those seeds as soon as any chance for frost in my area has safely passed. 

NOTE: I am NOT a doctor or other medical professional. Nothing I present in this article is meant to diagnose any disease or to recommend any treatment. It is only meant as “food for thought” and a starting point for your own research and consideration. Please see your doctor for medical advise when dealing with diabetes or any other illness.