Bitter substances in the cucumber are poisonous. You can avoid this during cultivation and care by not watering the vegetables too cold.
Erfurt – Perhaps you have already experienced biting into a bitter cucumber. Not only does it taste unsightly, it's even poisonous. However, there are methods by which you can achieve a bitter-free cucumber enjoyment when growing the vegetables in your own garden and with appropriate care of the plants.
Cucumber tastes bitter: avoid cold irrigation water
When growing cucumbers, you can prevent them from tasting bitter. (Symbolic image) © Cavan Images/Imago
Cucumbers, like many other vegetables, contain the natural compound cucurbitacin, which is responsible for the bitter taste. The poisonous substance is mainly found in the vegetative parts of the plant such as leaves, stems and roots. Cucumbers form this substance first at the base of the stem and less at the base of the flower.
Bitterness varies depending on the variety of cucumbers and temperatures during the growing season, uneven watering and cool weather enhance this tart note. Fertilization and planting spacing can also affect bitterness. In short, the more stress a cucumber has, the more bitter it becomes.
Proper fertilization and watering for bitter-free cucumbers
You can avoid bitter cucumbers with these methods:
- Plant bitter-free varieties of cucumbers. These include the snake cucumbers "Bella (F1)", "Dominica (F1)", "Tanja (F1)" or the pickling cucumbers "Bimbostar" or "Corentine (F1)". Ideal are varieties of cucumbers for the greenhouse.
- Since misshapen fruits tend to taste bitter, and uneven watering contributes to misshapen fruits, it is important to water cucumbers evenly. Avoid prolonged dry periods. Mulching will help maintain a constant level of soil moisture. Too cold irrigation water also causes stress to cucumbers.
- Insufficient nutrient content contributes to uneven growth. Be sure to fertilize the plant sufficiently. A soil test can tell you what fertilizer and supplements your soil needs. Because too much fertilizer also makes cucumbers bitter.
- Avoid home-grown cucumbers, which, like zucchini, can be poisonous.
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If the cucumber still tastes bitter after harvesting, the Thuringia Consumer Advice Centre recommends cutting off the stem end of the cucumber generously and working towards the stem when peeling so that the bitter substances are not distributed over the entire cucumber.