We recently harvested the last crop of cucumbers from our garden, and after chopping and adding it to a tossed salad, I discovered that one of them was extremely bitter. Earlier batches had all been delicious, so I wondered what made this one so foul.
Turns out environmental conditions can have a big impact on cucumber flavor! If you’ve been unpleasantly surprised by bitter cucumbers, keep reading to discover how you can prevent this from happening as well as one really simple trick for making already-bitter cukes taste better.
Bitterness is in the Cucumber’s Genes
Cucumbers belong to the Cucurbit family, the same family of fruit (yes, it’s a fruit!) as melons and squash. Cucurbits naturally contain chemicals called cucurbitacins, which are very bitter, though they’re usually confined in the stems and leaves. So what causes them to migrate to the fruit itself?
Conditions That Cause Bitterness In Cucumbers
Elevated temperatures cause the cucumber plant to be stressed, which leads to bitter fruit. It was quite hot in the few weeks before we harvested these particular cucumbers, so that could have been part of the problem. Even if it’s not consistently hot but the temperature is fluctuating wildly for an extended period of time, it could produce the same effect.
Just like temperature fluctuations, alternating periods of drought followed by overwatering can also stress out a cucumber plant. If, like me, you’re guilty of inconsistent watering, this could be what’s causing your cukes to be bitter.
Some cucumber plants contain a recessive gene that predisposes them to bitterness. Even if you started several plants with seeds from the same pack, one could be bitter while the others are fine.
Use This Simple Trick To De-Bitter Your Cucumbers!
Did you know that there’s a way to pull some of the cucurbitacin out of a cucumber before you eat it? When I was little, my mom taught me to always cut off the ends of a cucumber and rub them in a circular motion against the exposed flesh before chopping it up. I never knew it could actually affect the chemical content of the fruit!/AgroWeb.org