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What Makes Cucumbers Bitter

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We all know that cucumbers are delicious and nutrition loaded fruits, which are extensively used in salads. And, we also know, sometimes these wonderful fruits taste bitter and spoil the taste of the entire preparation. We all have gone through that, but, how many of us have really been able to figure out what makes cucumbers bitter? While cooks and gardeners puzzle over this question every summer, I am going to reveal to you, what makes cucumbers bitter.

The reason behind cucumbers being bitter

Cucumbers contain a natural compound named ‘cucurbitacin’ and, the cucurbitacin is the cheif culprit behind making the cucumbers bitter in taste. But, not all kinds of cucumbers have the same amount of this bitter compound. The wild cucumbers contain comparatively higher concentrations of this bitter compound than any and that’s why, if you eat a wild cucumber, it is likely to taste very bitter. The domestic cucumbers contain lesser amount of cucurbitacin and so, we love to grow them in our gardens. And, just as you already guessed, these are the ones which are available in the vegetable stores too. Besides the wild and domestic varieties, cucumbers have many other cousins too and the amounts of this bitter compound vary differently in each.

A small dose of science

If you are curious to know a little more on what makes cucumbers bitter, then, I can take you a little further, to give you a deeper view. Basically, this bitter compound called cucurbitacin can be traced back to the vegetative parts of the cucumber plants. Go from the leaves to the stems and finally, down to the roots, and you will find some storages of cucurbitacin in all of those parts. Occasionally, this compound rides up the roots, the steams and the leaves to reach the fruiting structure and that’s when, you get a bitter cucumber. This reason also explains, why, not all cucumbers are bitter always. Moreover, since, the compound doesn’t accumulate evenly throughout the entire plant; the concentration varies in each fruit. So, while some cucumbers of that plant may taste very bitter, the other may taste less bitter, while the rest may not be bitter at all. Also, the compound remains more concentrated at the blossoming end of the fruit, towards the stem. It is more prevalent in the light green portion beneath the fruit’s skin and the skin itself.

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Betty's picture
What Makes Cucumbers Bitter