Saturday, August 22, 2009
Farm Bulletin: Bitter Discovery
The stacks of Chester blackberries at the Ayers Creek stand at the Hillsdale market were looming over Carol Boutard last Sunday, though customers were decimating the towers at an astonishing clip (take that, David Karp). While waiting to buy mine, I noticed a bin of strange-looking knobby green gourds. Wondering if Ayers Creek was branching out into the sex toy business, I asked about them and Anthony Boutard assured me that, no, they were not trying to expand their customer base and the odd-looking cucurbits were actually bitter melons.
Karela is the Indian variety of bitter melon. It is a beautiful fruit that is eaten before it ripens. The fruit is intensely bitter, but also considered a good liver restorative and helps reduce blood pressure. Regular customer Rahul Vora has provided a recipe from his family:
Bitter Melon and Potato Curry
Here's my mom's Gujarati style karela (my favorite).
1 lb. bitter gourd (karela) - Indian or Chinese
2 medium potatoes like yukon gold
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
1/2 tsp. red chili powder or cayenne or hot paprika
1/2 tsp. coriander powder
1/4 tsp. cumin powder
1 Tbsp. lime juice
If using Indian karela, scrape the skin to smooth it out a bit with a peeler. Slit the karela lengthwise and scoop out all the seeds and pulp. Discard. Cut the seeded karela into 1" x 1/2 " strips. Sprinkle salt on the strips and let drain for at leat 1 hr. Squeeze to drain as much as possible.
Peel and cut potatoes into similar-sized chunks.
Heat oil in a wok or large sauté pan. Add the karela and the potatoes. Stir-fry at high heat for 3-4 minutes, browning the vegetables. Lower heat to medium and continue to stir fry for another 3-4 minutes or so. Add all the powder spices and sugar. Add salt carefully, making sure not to over-salt (depends on how much salt was retained after the de-bittering step). Stir on low heat for another 3-4 minutes or so until the spices are fully incorporates and the vegetables are fully cooked and a little crispy. Sprinkle the lime juice. Serve with wheat tortilla or chapati or pita bread. It can also be served with rice and dal.