Food & Recipes

How to Remove the Bitterness From Cucumbers

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Have you ever wondered, “Why are cucumbers bitter?” It’s always so disappointing when you bite into a fresh slice on your salad or sandwich, only to have that harsh taste instead of the light crisp one you were expecting.

According to a study from 2012, the cause of bitter cucumbers comes down to the presence of cucurbitacins, a natural compound that is also found in pumpkins and other gourds. Those plants can produce more cucurbitacins depending on stressors as they grow, making them especially prone to bitterness. The gardening experts at Harvest to Table explain how certain factors, like a lack of water or extreme temperatures (both too cold or too hot) can cause cucumbers to become extra bitter. 

If you grow your own cucumbers, you can take steps to provide plenty of hydration and protection from the elements to avoid this pesky problem. Plus, it’s important to choose nutrient-rich soil and mulch. Harvest to Table also recommends using a raised soil bed with plenty of compost to help these vegetables ward of bitterness.

For those of us who rely on the grocery store to provide our produce, there’s a super-simple trick for making sure all of your cucumbers are free of that icky bitter flavor. Before slicing up the whole thing, start by just chopping off the tip and then rub that portion over the end of the veggie. The friction will lure out the cucurbitacins, causing a foam that you can wipe away. Then just slice up the rest of the cucumber to enjoy without any fear of a bad flavor! Take a look at the video below for a demonstration:

It might seem too easy to really be effective, but people have relied on this old wives’ trick for generations. Even if you do grow your own veggies, this step can help salvage any bitter ones from the bunch. Whichever way you get your cucumbers, starting with this trick while slicing will make your meals taste their best.

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