A strangely shaped fruit from a vegetable plant that is used as a vegetable in Asian cooking. This melon has a shape that is similar to a cucumber with ribbed and bumpy skin. When the melon is prepared, the outer skin is removed and the melon is cut in half lengthwise to reveal its seed core, which is removed and discarded. The thin flesh that is remaining can be sautéed or braised and then eaten as is or it can be added to soups and stir-fried dishes. A freshly harvested bitter melon is greenish-yellow with a mild, sour flavor, but it is preferred by most when it fully ripens, turning orangish-yellow in color and having a flavor that is pungent and bitter. Bitter melon is also known as balsam pear or balsam. It is available in Asian markets and can also be found canned or dried.
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