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Marie Iannotti

Why are My Cucumbers Bitter?

By August 23, 2010

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It's an age old conundrum for so many vegetables. After waiting all season for the fruits of your labor, they disappoint you with bitterness, sourness, toughness or some other uncorrectable malfeasance.

In the case of bitter cucumbers, the culprit it usually stress, and we've had enough of that this summer. Long periods of hot temperatures are the most common cause. There's not much you can do to control the heat, but keeping your cucumbers well watered will help offset the bitterness.

Another factor in bitter cucumbers is lean soil. Cucumbers are heavy feeders and a soil rich in organic matter will go a long way toward producing less stressed, better tasting cukes. If your soil is less than ideal, give your cucumbers a little food every 4-6 weeks.

And finally, look for varieties that are well suited to your area and site and that list non-bitterness as an attribute.

Photo: shannahsin / stock.xchng.


August 23, 2010 at 12:12 pm
(1) JohnD says:

Put sliced/chunked cukes in bowl – pour a generous portion of salt (like – 1/4 – 1/3 cup salt for, say, 2 cups cukes). Stir it around – stir once or twice more. After 30 minutes to an hour a lot of juice will have been drawn out. Pour that off, rinse the cukes, dry in a towel. They should taste salty.

Put slices/chunks of sweet onions in with cukes (if onions are bitter give them the salt-marinade treatment along with the cukes). Chunks of tomato – maybe pieces of ripe sweet bell peppers (they can be put in the salt marinade w/cukes to soften them).

No more salt. Pepper, herbs (we do tarragon and sometimes basil), oil and vinegar.

A chunky gazpacho salad – and usually the bitterness of cukes has been way tamed.

I have found some cukes that won’t “calm down” enough even with this treatment. Don’t bother the chickens though.

August 25, 2010 at 3:11 pm
(2) Linda says:

I follow a rule I heard about years ago and haven’t served a bitter cuke since. I know it sounds weird and I haven’t a clue how it works, just know that it does. When you prepare a cucumber, slice a quarter inch off the stem end, flip it over and take a similar slice off the blossom end, then flip it back over and take another slice from the stem end. Discard the pieces you cut off and slice up the rest to serve. You can either peel it or not, as you prefer. My husband makes fun of me, but he hasn’t eaten a bitter cucumber in the last 40 years.

August 25, 2010 at 11:00 pm
(3) Shelby24019 says:

We have grown Marketmore cumcumbers for years and very seldom have a bitter cumcumber. We planted them this year and with this crazy weather have not one bitter one. We use Rock Phosphate when we plant and water when we don’t get rain. I have canned 34 qts, we have keep all the neighbors in cuks and I also took a half bushel to the Women’s shelter. They are still producing. We did stager our three crops two weeks apart. We have only one row about 30 ft long.

August 26, 2010 at 5:04 am
(4) Marie Iannotti says:

JohnD, what a great way to not only tame cukes, but whip up a nice, cool summer recipe!

August 26, 2010 at 5:07 am
(5) Marie Iannotti says:

Linda, I’ve heard of that before, but I thought it couldn’t possibly be true. But after 40 years of non-bitter cucumbers, I’d have a hard time stopping, too.

August 26, 2010 at 5:09 am
(6) Marie Iannotti says:

Shelby, that’s a lot of cucumbers! Several people have recommended Marketmore, but you sure got ‘more’ out of them.

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