Here’s What Makes Cucumbers Bitter—and How to Fix It

Here's the science behind that bitter cucumber taste.

No doubt you’ve experienced a bitter cucumber once or twice in your day. That unpleasant flavour can make your nose twist up in disgust. There are so many different ways to use all types of cucumbers, but the bitter flavour can be hard to stomach.

Why Are My Cucumbers Bitter?

The actual cause of bitterness in cucumbers and other gourds, like zucchini, is due to a compound known as cucurbitacin. This compound is always present in cucumbers, but the levels change based on the growing process of the vegetables. The higher the level of cucurbitacin, the more bitter the cucumber.

Environmental factors have an impact on the levels of cucurbitacin. High heat and constant temperature swings, for example, can affect an entire garden’s worth of vegetables. The watering process has a major impact as well. Too little water followed by dry spells will often cause higher levels of this bitter compound. (Here’s what you should know before starting a garden.)

Are Bitter Cucumbers Harmful?

In general, no. It’s true that some cucumbers and zucchinis are so bitter, they’ve caused food poisoning. You won’t find these kinds of vegetables at your local grocery store, though. Mild bitterness, like the kind you’ll find in commercially sold vegetables, will not have a negative effect on your health.

What to Do with Bitter Cucumbers

You can cut the skin off a bitter cucumber to soften the flavour. It won’t get rid of the taste entirely, but it will help quite a bit. And if you haven’t already, you should absolutely try milking a cucumber. It may be an old wives’ tale, but rubbing pieces of cucumber together is said to pull some of the cucurbitacin to the surface. You can also salt your cucumbers to help even out the taste.

Next, learn why there are 10 hot dogs in a pack, but only 8 buns.

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Originally Published on Taste of Home