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Bitter Gourd

Also Known As : Karela (Assamese), karala (Bengali), karelu (Gujarati), Karela, kathilla, poraru (Hindi), haagalakaay (Kannada), kaaraate (Konkani), kayppa (Malayalam), changkha(Mizoram), Tite Karela, Karela, Karelo (Nepali), kakara (Telugu), nigauri (Japanese), yeoju (Korean), mara kheenok (Thai).
Technical Name : Momordica charantia


Taste Profile

Bitter gourd is bitter in taste    

Usage Tips

  1. It is used to make delicious dishes after stuffing and frying.
  2. In South Indian cuisine, it is used in the dishes thoran/thuvaran (mixed with grated coconut), mezhukkupuratti (stir-fried with spices) and theeyal (cooked with roasted coconut).
  3. In northern India and Nepal it is also prepared as a pickle.
  4. In Chinese cuisine, bitter melon is consumed by adding it to soups, dim sum, and herbal teas (gohyah tea).
  5. Bitter gourd juice along with other fruits and vegetables makes for a nutrient-packed beverage.
  6. Sauté bitter melon alongside tomatoes, garlic, and onions can be added to scrambled eggs.
  7. It can also be used to make North Indian curries.

Common names and forms

  1. Bitter Melon
  2. Bittergourd (Karela)
  3. Karela
  4. Karela vegetable


Bitter gourd (Momordica charantia) is one of the world’s major vegetable crops, which belongs to the family Cucurbitaceae. The genus Momordica is a native of the Paleotropics and comprises about 60 species. It is known to be originated in India and was introduced later in China. It is widely used in the cuisines of East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. In India, bitter gourd is grown in the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Assam Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar. The plant is monoecious, annual climber with long-stalked leaves and yellow, solitary male and female flowers borne on the leaf axils. The warty and oblong or elliptical-shaped fruit is botanically a ‘pepo.’ There are two main varieties of bitter gourd. The large one is long, oblong and pale green while the other kind is small, little oval and dark green. They turn reddish-orange on ripening. It is used as a food, bitter flavoring, and medicine.

Health benefits

  • • Bitter gourd has shown to improve several markers of long-term blood sugar control, including levels of fructosamine and hemoglobin A1c. It improves the way sugar is utilized in the tissues and promotes the secretion of insulin. This helps in decreasing the blood sugar levels. (1) 
  • It works against cancer cell proliferation and stops tumor formation. Researches prove bitter gourd to be effective against stomach, colon, lung, nasopharynx, and breast cancer cells. (1) 
  • It is also low in calories and rich in fiber. It can stop the formation and growth of adipose cells (the ones that store fat in the body). It boosts metabolism, and helps in the reduction of fat. (2) 
  • It reduces LDL (bad cholesterol) by breaking it down and preventing its accumulation. This decreases the risk of suffering a heart attack. The fiber content also helps to unclog the arteries. (2) 
  • Being full of fiber, bitter gourd helps in bowel movements and prevents stomach disorders like constipation. (2) 

Selection Guide

Choose bitter gourds that are free from dents and bruises. Look for bitter gourds that are thick and nice. Select those that are greenish-yellow as they will not be too bitter. Pick the ones that are half ripe as they taste better


Bitter gourds, if taken in excessive quantities, can affect pregnant women. It is responsible for causing emmenagogue (an increase of menstrual flow) and abortion-causing effects. Bitter gourd has blood- glucose-lowering effects. Combining bitter gourds with standard drugs can dangerously low blood sugar levels. It has been reported that red arils (the covering on the seeds) might be toxic to children which might cause vomiting and diarrhea.Hypoglycaemic coma occurs when there is an excessive decrease in blood glucose levels.It has been observed that the onset of hypoglycaemic coma and the start of atrial fibrillation (abnormal heart rhythm) is associated with excessive intake of bitter gourds. (3)

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