In many households bitter cucumbers end up in the trash. Not only the unpleasant taste speaks against eating them. In some cases, the vegetable is also poisonous and can cause stomach problems. But why do cucumbers actually become bitter and how can the bitter substances be removed?
Table of contents
- When do cucumbers become bitter? Possible causes for the unpleasant taste
- Are cucumbers poisonous when they are bitter?
- When cucumbers taste bitter: Possible causes when grown
- Cucumbers form bitter substances: How to prevent?
- Why do cucumbers become bitter when peeled?
- Neutralize bitter cucumbers: Is it possible to extract the bitter substances?
- Cucumbers taste bitter, pickle them anyway?
When do cucumbers become bitter? Possible causes of the unpleasant taste
Not only the salad cucumbers from the supermarket sometimes taste bitter. Even when it comes to own production, some cucumbers can taste bitter, and others – not. The taste indicates a high concentration of toxic bitter substances – the so-called Cucurbitaceae. Those who still consume the vegetable risk stomach problems such as diarrhea and vomiting. Cucumbers secrete these toxins to protect themselves from various pests.
Not all varieties contain the toxins. Most varieties grown in containers, in greenhouses, conservatories or on balconies are bred not to contain bitter substances. However, the varieties for the vegetable patch may form the bitter substances.
Are cucumbers toxic if they are bitter?
The short answer is yes, the bitter compounds are toxic and can cause certain stomach problems that can last for days in some cases. Usually, these bitter substances accumulate first in the leaves and only then in the fruits directly at the two ends.
When cucumbers taste bitter: Possible causes when growing
Conditions in the garden are not always optimal. Incorrect location, unfavorable weather and some gardening mistakes can promote the formation of bitter substances. Possible causes include:
- Prolonged periods of heat.
- High temperatures during the day and low temperatures in the evening
- Irregular watering. Plants are either standing in water or the soil has dried out.
- Lean soil or, conversely, soil that is too rich in nutrients
- Incorrectly selected harvest time – the cucumbers are either not sufficiently ripe or overripe.
- Certain fertilizers can also cause cucumbers to form more toxins than usual.
Cucumbers form bitter substances: How to prevent?
You can prevent this by using special organic fertilizers. If the temperatures drop a lot in the evening, then you can cover the cucumbers with foil. Regular watering is an absolute must. Ripe cucumbers can be recognized by their uniformly colored skin. They are firm, the skin is smooth. Discoloration may indicate a bitter taste.
Why do cucumbers become bitter when peeled?
Whether from your own garden or from the supermarket, when cucumbers taste bitter, you wonder what the cause might be. Were the bitter substances perhaps released during peeling? For a long time, it was assumed that when you peel, you evenly distribute the toxins found at the base of the stalk into the vegetable. This claim has never been confirmed by researchers. On the contrary, although the majority of toxins are directly at the stem base, the other parts of the fruit also contain many bitter substances. Therefore, they are inedible for humans and animals.
Neutralize bitter cucumbers: Is it possible to extract the bitter substances?
It is best not to eat bitter cucumbers at all, because they can cause diarrhea and stomach cramps. In some cases, it can even lead to life-threatening poisoning.
If you still want to try it on your own responsibility, you should first soak the cucumber in salt water and after several hours cut off the skin generously. On TikTok videos are shown where you cut off the end with the stem first and then rub the interface with it. This is said to extract the toxins from the vegetable. However, these claims are not proven, so we advise against such attempts.
Cucumbers taste bitter, pickle them anyway?
If some home-grown cucumbers taste bitter, check all specimens before pickling. Sort out cucumbers with spots or discoloration on the skin. Check the others before processing them. Never use cucumbers that are bitter. The toxins are especially harmful to children and pets, so avoid at all costs.