Bitter is the New Umami

Categories: Events

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Celebrating Bitter Melon at SomArts

Where: SomArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan (at Eighth St.), 863-1414

When: Wed., Feb. 16, 7-9 p.m.

Cost: Free

The rundown: The bitter melon, aka the balsam pear, is long, warty, and oft considered to be the world's bitterest vegetable. The National Bitter Melon Council (NBMC) says humans are the only mammals with a palate for bitterness; so let's celebrate? Wednesday night, these bitter boosters and arty acolytes (think National Dairy Council meets Ken Kesey) are ready to party at SomArts, at an event called Bitter is Better, part of SomArts' ongoing Sensory Feast festival. In a night that should be nothing if not weird, the NBMC unleashes an evening of bitter melon exploration, with a side of self-discovery to cleanse the palate. They think delicious is overplayed, and they're ready to assault our senses with a "public celebration of the health, social, culinary, and creative possibilities of this underappreciated vegetable and emotional state of being." Not convinced? NBMC cofounder Jeremy Liu expounded on the bitter melon's appeal to SFoodie:

Bitter melon is luridly lumpy, bracingly bitter, and naturally nutritious ― a unique combination that evolution seems to have custom-tailored for modern needs. We need luridly lumpy because confronting the strange and different can bring us together. We need bracingly bitter because dealing with bitterness ― the emotion or the flavor ― is a key to being happy. We need naturally nutritious because being healthy is a natural state of being not an outcome of scientific manipulation.
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A Sensory Feast is presented by SOMArts Cultural Center but curated/organized by Kearny Street Workshop ( There will be an artist talk and closing reception for the exhibition on Feb 24, where you can learn more about the National Bitter Melon Council. And in March, KSW will be offering A Sensory Feast workshop series in collaboration with 18Reasons (

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