About Hana Hou!
Hawaiian Airlines
Contact Us
Out standing in his field: Hamakua farmer Bill Beach, pictured in a patch of dry-land taro
Vol. 10, No. 1
February / March 2007

  >>   Art of the Warrior
  >>   A Road Less Taken
  >>   The Seed Savers

An Acquired Taste 

story by Sue Kiyabu
photos by Kevin Cameron


Letís get this out of the way: itís an acquired taste.

You may possess a highly perceptive palate, which delights in the intricate flavor of bittermelon at first bite, but most mortals need repeated exposure to appreciate its unique flavor. The uninitiated may find their taste buds overwhelmed by the aptly named bittermelonís initial assault. This is a food with an attitude, beloved by many Island families but rarely encountered on the menus of four-star restaurants.

A member of the gourd family, bittermelon is a relative of many exotic vegetables. Grown in tropical regions around the world, it resembles a thick, mint-green, warty cucumber (a distant cousin). The plantís seeds, vines and leaves are edible, but the melon itself is most often the key ingredient. At first, its bitterness may be concealed by the richness of fried batter or the saltiness of black bean sauce or the spiciness of curry, but then it comes into its own, first at the back and sides of the tongue and then, more lingeringly, on the palate. Itís not for culinary cowards.