Better Living Through Bitter Melon
Bitter melon is not just a clever name. The melon, which is eaten like a vegetable, is shockingly bitter. So bitter that, like the vivid colors of a poisonous frog, it seems like nature's way of saying "back off!"
However bitter melon is perfectly safe to eat and stars in the cuisines of several Asian countries, including China and India. Bitter melon looks something like a lumpy, pointed cucumber, and it is often paired with other ingredients meant to temper its pungency, but there's no way to beat around the bush. "The bitterness never really goes away," says Andi Sutton, "but that's the beauty of the vegetable."
Sutton knows her bitter melon. She helps run the National Bitter Melon Council , whose slogan is "better living through bitter melon." The group formed to promote its patron food because, let's face it, most of us aren't running out to buy a warty vegetable that tastes a little like poison. Hiroko Kikuchi, who helped found the council, has this to say about the group's role: "Watermelon wouldn't need us. Bitter melon needs help."
So what is there to promote? Bitter melons are many things, but they aren't forgettable. It's the kind of thing that you eat, aren't sure if you ever want to eat again, and then can't stop thinking about. The melons are also touted for their healing properties. At a recent event in Boston, the council's home base, Sutton told an interested passerby how to use bitter melon to get rid of a rash. "Also you can make really good mixed drinks with it," she added. "Andi makes a mean bitter melon sangria," said Bonnie Bastien, a volunteer with the council.
The NBMC hosts events and stages actions in both Boston and L.A., often with one of the council members dressed in a giant bitter melon costume. The suit looks like a cross between a pumpkin and a cactus with huge eyes, plastic eyelashes, and a big smile. It recently made an appearance at Boston's SoWa Open Market. "People were responding like they always do: high fives, photos, thinking it's a pickle..." says Ashley Peterson, another volunteer with the council. A little girl dressed in a bitter melon-like bumpy green jacket tentatively posed for a photo with the mascot while sucking her pacifier before quickly running back to her parents.
For an action the NBMC calls urban homeopathy, they hand out seed bombs. They encourage people to chuck these balls of fertile soil mixed with bitter melon seeds at an area of their community that they have bitter feelings about, such as an abandoned lot or a stalled construction site. Then, as the plants take root, the bitterness is extracted from the space and converted into food.
The council has set up a makeshift living room complete with rug, house plant, and rocking chair in the parking lot where the market takes place. There, between two food trucks, one of which was selling a bitter melon and cantaloupe salad, the group took turns reading aloud from their new publication Better Living Through Bitter Melon: A Manual. The manual is actually a package containing booklets and all sorts of goodies. There are recipes, including one for a BLTBM, the better living through bitter melon sandwich.
The manual also contains detailed information about eighteen different varietals of the melons including "Hong Kong green" and "India long white," bitter melon themed astrology, and a book of essays on topics like "How Bitter Melon Benefits Diabetics" to "Bitter is Better for Us." Illustrations about what not to do with bitter melon show a perturbed bride and groom ducking slices of bitter melon on their way out of the chapel.
Though the council's tone is whimsical, they're serious about their mission. The group started in Boston's South End, a neighborhood that has experienced waves of gentrification that left many of its long time residents unable to pay the rent, and one of their goals is helping people to process bitter emotions that may be related to that shift. For an action the NBMC calls urban homeopathy, they hand out seed bombs. They encourage people to chuck these balls of fertile soil mixed with bitter melon seeds at an area of their community that they have bitter feelings about, such as an abandoned lot or a stalled construction site. Then, as the plants take root, the bitterness is extracted from the space and converted into food.
Kikuchi also discusses the Chinese concept of sho ku, or swallowing bitterness. She describes this as a positive acceptance of hardship, praising the power that comes from learning to stomach adversity. One imagines Christina Aguilera's "Fighter" being sung to a bitter melon: "After all you put me through, you'd think I'd despise you, but in the end I want to thank you, because you've made me that much stronger."
After spending some time with the council, you may start to wonder if bitterness is really such a bad thing. Just as good cannot exist without evil, perhaps bitterness is there to help us appreciate the sweet. To explore this relationship, the council recently planted sweet melons alongside bitter ones to find out what would happen if the plants cross-pollinated. They call the project "promiscuous production."
"Bitterness is very complex. It's not dislike or hate," says Kikuchi. "We always feel like it's a loss of attachment. You love something and you can't forget about it. You can't let go of something and you become bitter."
So the next time life throws something bitter your way, take a cue from the Bitter Melon Council — make a BLTBM.
Kasia (3 weeks ago)
W jakim celu w taki sposób stanowi? Czemu w mediach wyłączne co się pisze ciekawe teksty - oprócz paroma wpisami traktującymi gwiazd, które pykają elektroniczne papierosy (e-papierosy) - to to iż szkodzą, iż powinno się wstrzymać ich sprzedawania czy też nadal przyzwoiciej dołożyć akcyzę na liquidy do nich wyprzedawane. Do licha i trochę wskazuje na owo iż definitywnie za tym katalog stron całym sterczą gigantyczne firmy tabakowe gwoli jakich straty po tym gdy elektronowe niedopałki (e-papierosy) na zbyt stanowią rozliczane w mld euro i państwa, gwoli których wpływy spośród akcyzy na pety istnieją obszerne.
Cherrin (5 months ago)
Boutique officielle led watch, la montre LED tendance.
barvelou (7 months ago)
My mom would cook bitter melon at least once a week in our household and we were always forced to eat our share. It's really bitter but it's surprisingly very nutritious too. - Markus Lattner
Esa (2 yearss ago)
We here eat bitter melon! IT is bitter but a great way of fixing that is by slicing it into pieces and mixing eggs with it to make a sort of veggie fritter. Make a special dip and voila! Healthy food. ^^
KPLilly (2 yearss ago)
I doubt I'll be trying it anytime soon!