Bittermelon or ampalaya as we call it is becoming popular nowadays because of its nutritional benefits. We have been using bittermelon in our cuisine as long as I can remember in the Philippines and some people would not like it because of the bitterness so it is an acquired taste. I’m happy I was brought up with this vegetable as part of our everyday food. We used it in pinakbet, bulanglang, and other recipes like beef with bittermelon and stuffed bittermelon which are recipes from Chinese influence. Japanese called these warty vegetables “goya”. They are now using goya in their cuisine like goya champuru and pickled goya. In Okinawa, it is well known to be part of the longevity diet of the people.
Bittermelon is rich in vitamins like Vit. C, beta-carotene, B-vitamins, Vit. E and K, and minerals like potassium, calcium, copper, iron, etc. It is known to fight diabetes because it decreases blood glucose level.
I like growing bittermelon because it is fairly easy to grow. It needs a well-ammended soil and constant watering in the growing season. It grows all summer long. It needs a trellis for their delicate tendrils to hold on to. It will bear yellow flowers and the bees are the common pollinators. I let the seeds of the over ripe fruits to just grow where it landed. And it works for me. I also used the young leaves in cooking like munggo (mung) beans soup, chicken and mushroom soup, and the Hawaiian local soup called Chicken Paraya (Ilokano word for ampalaya).