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QUESTION: Bitter Cucumbers

comments (3) June 29th, 2011

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rsporter rsporter, member
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I just would like to know why some of my cucumbers are SO BITTER?   I have to taste each one to find out if it is good and then the bitter taste gets in my mouth and I can't tell.  I have a raised bed garden and I used compost and manure and lime this spring.  Is there anything else I can do?


posted in: cucumbers, Bitter cukes

Comments (3)

myseasons writes: There is another way to help. I know this is probably an old wives tale, but I am an old wife, what can I say.
My grandmother taught me to cut off the end of the cuke, about half an inch and then scrub the two cut ends together. It does seem to help. When the cut sides are scrubbed together a thick substance forms. Wash that off and see how the cuke tastes.
OK, logic doesn't work here. The substance that comes out of the end of the cuke could not be from the entire length of the cuke. But this works for me, though I admit I have never had a terribly bitter cuke, just some too bitter for my taste.
Posted: 9:48 am on July 20th
LindaBrandon writes: From North Carolina Cooperative Extension's website:
All cucurbits produce a group of chemicals called cucurbitacins, which causes the bitter taste in cucumbers. The higher the concentration of cucurbitacins, the more bitter the taste. The cucurbitacin chemical that causes the bitter taste can be toxic at very high levels, but this is usually not a problem because most people spit it out before ingesting.

Cucumbers have been selected over time for low levels of these bitter compounds, so that usually it is not a problem for the home gardener. The amount of cucurbitacins is in such a low concentration that it usually is not tasted.

It is fairly common for a home gardener to occasionally come across a cucumber that has a bitter taste. The bitterness is due to high levels of cucurbitacins that was triggered by environmental stress. These environmental stresses can include high temperatures, wide temperature swings, or too little water. Uneven watering practices (too wet followed by too dry), low soil fertility and low soil pH are also possible stress factors. Over-mature or improperly stored cucurbits may also develop a mild bitterness, although it is usually not severe enough to prevent gardeners from eating them.

The bitter compound is more likely to be more concentrated in the stem end than in the blossom end of the cucumber. It is also found more in the peel and in the light green area just beneath the peel. It is less likely to be found in the interior of the fruit.

Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to prevent the occasional bitter cucumber since it is related to environmental stress and we are not able to control the weather. So, if occasionally, you come across a bitter cucumber out of your home garden, simply get rid of the bad tasting cucumber.

Hope this helps! (I've also heard that simply peeling the bitter ones may get to the "sweeter" part of the fruit.
Posted: 2:34 pm on July 7th
Veeta writes: I have had this problem the last two years. Everything I have read says it is due to irregular irrigation. Presumably if you let them get too dry just once it can cause this! I do think the variety I was growing was more prone to bitterness, so this year I am trying a different variety and using straw mulch. One additional tip is to rinse cucumbers immediately upon picking/
Posted: 11:07 am on July 5th
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