You often hear the question, “Why does my cucumber taste bitter?” Yes, gardeners would like to know what the reason is. Is it due to improper storage or the way the cucumber was grown? Perhaps most importantly, can anything be done about it? Discover here how to prevent and get rid of the bitter taste of the vegetable!
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Why are my cucumbers bitter?
A very healthy vegetable
Cucumber is a very healthy food that belongs to the cucurbit family and contains a high water content and numerous minerals, vitamins and electrolytes. It has been named the vegetable of the year for 2019 and 2020. This vegetable is known as a cooling food for the body because it maintains water balance in the heat.
The seeds and peel of the cucumber are also very healthy and a good source of bitter compounds and silicon, which aid in digestion. In the peel there are sterols that successfully lower cholesterol.
Cucumber tastes bitter – cause
The cause of the bitterness of cucumbers and other squashes like zucchini is a compound known as cucurbitacin. This compound is always present in cucumbers, but the content changes depending on the growth process of the vegetable. The higher the level of cucurbitacin, the more bitter the vegetable.
Environmental factors have an effect on cucurbitacin content. For example, high heat and constant temperature fluctuations can affect the value of an entire vegetable garden. Irrigation also has a major impact. Too little water, followed by drought, often results in increased levels of this bitter compound.
Are bitter cucumbers harmful?
Generally, no. It is true that some cucumbers and zucchini are so bitter that they have caused food poisoning. Higher concentrations of the bitter compound cucurbitacin can cause flatulence in some people. However, you will not find this type of vegetable in your grocery store. Mild bitterness, such as that found in commercial vegetables, has no negative impact on your health. It is safe to eat cucumbers as long as they do not show signs of spoilage (for example, sour odor or spoilage).
If you grow cucumbers yourself and then they taste very bitter, you should not eat them. It can cause various problems – stomach cramps, diarrhea, and others.
How to prevent the bitter taste
Cucumbers become bitter for two main reasons: variety and stress. The first problem occurs only in older varieties that have male and female flowers. If you leave the male flowers in place, bees and other pollinators will pull pollen from them and fertilize the female flowers. This is not desirable because the fruit will taste bitter. Remove all male flowers as soon as they appear.
The other cause of bitter cucumbers is plant stress. The vegetable needs regular watering and you should make sure the soil stays moist but does not get wet. Avoid over or under watering – little and often is best. However, make sure there is good air circulation, otherwise powdery mildew could make the fruit bitter. Spraying also helps control spider mites, which can cause plant stress and bitter fruit.
Use a quality compost that will provide all the nutrients your cucumbers need, and remember that fertilization is important to ensure a tasty yield. A regular tomato fertilizer will do the trick, but a fertilizer with a high nitrogen content is better for preventing bitterness.
Cucumber tastes bitter: get rid of the taste.
Dispose of the bitter parts
When the bitter parts get into the cucumber, they concentrate at the stem end (where the stem was attached) and just under the skin. If your vegetable is bitter, cut a piece from the center and try it again to see if the center is less bitter. If the middle slice tastes better, just leave off the stem end.
Another option is to peel the peel and a layer below it, as the layer just below the peel may also contain bitterness.
Salt changes foods in many ways and one of them is inhibiting our ability to taste bitterness. There are numerous scientific studies that support this. They show that salt improves many foods by reducing bitter taste – from grapefruit to coffee, making it taste less bitter.
You can reduce the bitterness of cucumbers with salt in several ways.
- Salt cucumbers directly: do this gently so the vegetable doesn’t taste like seawater. When salted, cucumbers lose moisture and can wet a vegetable platter or ruin the texture of other dishes. If this is a problem, you can salt the vegetables ahead of time and drain them in a colander or on a paper towel.
- Use cucumbers in a salty dish: You do not need to salt them directly if you are adding them to another salty dish.
Cucumber tastes bitter: add sugar.
Sugar also reduces the ability to perceive bitterness, which is one of the main reasons for adding sugar to grapefruit, cocktails, and coffee. Sometimes both sugar and salt are used to reduce bitterness.
Vinegar and pickling
A good vinaigrette can mitigate bitterness, as the sour and bitter flavors compete with each other (as does the sugar in a sweeter dressing). This also counteracts the bitterness of leaf lettuces.
Pickling brine (especially with added sugar) can also reduce bitterness. You may need to let the vegetables sit in the brine for several weeks to tame them.