Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What Is This Thing? A Question I Maybe Should Have Asked Before Swallowing.


While in Florida this past weekend, I ate the vegetable pictured above. Or rather I should say that I choked down two bites of it, grimacing, and then guilty threw the rest away. I have no idea what it is or why anyone would want to eat it.

It seemed to be some variety of bitter melon, though the ones I've had before were more smooth and less warty. Also I've only had bitter melon cooked, though the vendor my mom bought this vegetable from said that it could be eaten raw, like a cucumber. Right.

Its similarities to a cucumber ended after being an oblong green thing that technically you could bite into. Unlike a cucumber, I didn't want to chew or swallow this, let alone turn it into a cool, creamy soup or de-crusted sandwich filling. A broccoli rabe and garlic mustard-loving nontaster, I was surprised at my lack of tolerance, but my gag reflex spoke for me.

Maybe I'm not giving it a fair shake, though if you did shake it, the little green warts fell off, which did not make it any more alluring.

Maybe if, like the bitter melon I've eaten, this was cooked with complimentary seasonings and salty bits of animal flesh, it would have been more palatable. As is, it was part vegetable, part emetic.

So what on earth was it? A snozzcumber?

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11 comments:

Carol Ann said...

Tsk! You should have looked at Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitter_melon

It is a bitter melon of a different phenotype than you are used to, sort of like winter squash has all sorts of phenotypes.

Rob said...

Carol Ann beat me to it by about an hour. Yes, definitely Indian bitter melon. Intense, huh? My South Indian garden neighbors at our community garden plot grow it. It really is beautiful when it ripens and shows its brilliant red seeds. When I lived in an ashram in Santa Monica the winter of 80-81, devotees of the teacher set up a special little greenhouse just to grow it for him--supposed to be very good for your health. Now much more widely available.

Jeremy J. Lee said...

It's called Goya in Japanese. Try a recipe called 'goya champuru' which is the bitter melon cooked with savory pork - quite delicious. The bitterness is supposed to be good for you.

Aaron Kagan said...

Thanks everybody. I look forward to a rematch, possibly with pork on my side.

Anonymous said...

Oh bitter melon is so good stuffed with curried shrimp!

Anonymous said...

Slice it up then sprinkle with salt and let sit for a while to draw out the bitterness but that's the good part to purify your blood.

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