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Green and covered in ridges and pebbly bumps, the bitter melon looks like a weaponized cucumber. And it almost is: The melon contains powerfully bitter compounds. But it’s more food miracle than menace. It’s packed with vitamin C and is known to reduce blood sugar levels. In Okinawa, goya, as bitter melon is known in Japan, is partly credited for the long life spans of residents there.

To prepare it, halve it lengthwise and scoop out the white inner pith and seeds with a spoon. Chop or thinly slice the flesh, toss it with salt to leach out some of its bitterness, and then squeeze out its astringent juice. You can stir-fry it (as in Goya Champuru), juice it for a morning green juice or Green Gin Cocktail, or blanch it in boiling water, as you would broccoli rabe, for a salad.

Read more about Okinawan cuisine »

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