I’m on a freezing frolic this weekend, as I went to the farmers market and picked up lots of fresh vegetables that I’m trying to save for later use. The bitter gourd or bitter melons, are the most bitter’est amongst all fruits and has wonderful medicinal properties too (see wikipedia link). I like the bitter flavour of these green monsters but, in small quantities. I like to roast them and pop them into secret concoctions. They are wonderful in any meat dish and equally fantastic with lentils and even potatoes. But if I freeze them as they are, I find their bitterness just gets worse and they lose their texture, flavour – everything! I hate buying the frozen bags of this fruit (I thought it was a vegetable until today!) and I like to stock up whenever I see them nice and fresh.
The variety we get here in North America is this bright green crocodile skinned kind and when you buy them, buy the skinnier ones (I’m not biased to the big ones, but those ones have huge hard seeds inside!); they should be bright and I like these crocodile style spikes to be thinner rather than the big chunky type or the flat Chinese variety.
I am a little fussy when I choose these green crocodiles, but I just don’t want to eat bitter fruit that has no flavour? If I am going to eat bitter, it better taste good and be worth the hard work I put into them!!
How to clean, cut and get the Bitter gourds, melons or green crocodiles ready?
First, wash them in cold salty water. It cleans them and gets rid of anything stuck between the green spiky texture. I like to slit mine lengthways for when I’m roasting them this way –
Then using a melon baller, remove the inside flesh. Technically, the inside flesh has a lot of nutrients and is supposed to be fantastic but I don’t like to taste the chunky seeds in my food, so I remove them.
The inside flesh comes out very easily, and it leaves you with these clean crocodile skins ! (I don’t mean to offend anyone by referring to them as crocodile skins. It was something that my little one said that has kind of got stuck. These are pure vegetarian fruits and I have no intention whatsoever of skinning or eating a crocodile. Actually, I have no intention of going anywhere near one….)
Lay them out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, flesh side up for now. Spray the inside with a little bit of oil (I use an oil pump spray and 1 squirt all over works perfect). Sprinkle a little bit of salt and flip them over.
You have to admit that they now do look like a herd of crocodiles in a pond, or should they be alligators?
Anyways, back to cooking instructions – Spray this side with only oil, no seasoning (this side doesn’t absorb anything – just a little bit of oil should help cook it though). In a preheated oven (375F) for 20 minutes would give you –
Flip them over to the other side before I crack any more Alligator or Crocodile jokes…and sprinkle this side with some black pepper and a spice mix. I used Meat masala (ready made mix, ready available in the Indian aisle of the grocery store) and I sprayed a little bit more oil on top before returning them to the oven for only 5-7 more minutes.
The fruit is all shrivelled up and crispy – full of concentrated flavour but not the fresh bitterness that’s unbearable to taste. I let these cool and then pack them in a freezer bag, into the freezer with a label to use them in 3 months. Its impossible I will let them stay in there for that long, and I am already debating whether I should cook these in a Lentil Curry or a Meat curry for next week…… or perhaps on their own with lots of onions, tomatoes and ginger? Only time will tell !