B. Rosie Lerner
Purdue Extension


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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 relief.

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.


Writer: B. Rosie Lerner
Editor: Olivia Maddox