B. Rosie Lerner
Extension Consumer Horticulturist
Bitter Cucumbers A Temporary Problem
If you've noticed that your cucumbers are a little (or a lot) bitter
lately, don't give up hope. A little water, mulch and patience will provide
Most cucumber plants contain a bitter compound called cucurbitacin, which
can be present in the fruit as well as the foliage. Bitterness in cucumbers
tends to be more prominent when plants are under stress from low moisture,
high temperatures or poor nutrition.
For some cucumber eaters, the bitter taste can be accompanied by a digestive
discomfort known as a burp. Some of the newer cultivars of cucumbers do
not have the bitter compound and, thus, no burp. So, some seed companies
called their bitter-free cukes "burpless."
The amount of bitterness in the cucumber depends on the severity of the
heat and drought. In most cases, cutting off the stem-end and removing
the skin of bitter cucumbers will remove much of the bitterness. Some
fruits will be bitter all the way through and should be discarded. Bitter
cucumbers will not taste any better when pickled!
Watering during droughty periods to provide 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water
in a single application will help keep bitterness out of subsequent fruits.
Apply a mulch, such as straw, shredded bark or newspaper, to help cool
the soil, conserve moisture and keep weeds under control.
Next year, your best bet is to plant bitter-free cultivars and provide
optimum growing conditions, when possible. Many cultivars are listed as
being bitter-free, including Carmen, County Fair, Diva, Green Knight,
Sweet Slice, Sweet Success and Tasty Green. New cultivars arrive each
year, so be sure to read through next season's garden catalogs and Web
sites to find the bitter-free types.