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Sometimes the delicious zucchini can leave a very bitter aftertaste.

Zucchini, a normally delicious and popular squash, is sometimes rendered quite inedible because of a mild or an intense bitter taste in them, which doesn’t subside even after cooking the squash. 

Although intense bitterness is usually found in wild zucchini, sometimes even the odd commercially grown zucchini comes with a bitter aftertaste. 

So why does the occasional zucchini have such a bitter taste, when most of the times, it tastes so delicious? Here’s a look at some of the reasons:

• Zucchini is a member of the Cucurbitacea family, along with cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, melons and gourds. All members of the family produce chemicals called cucurbitacins that can cause the fruits to have a bitter taste.

• Cucurbitacins are usually found in a higher concentration in wild zucchini and squash plants, and are usually unheard of in commercially grown fruit.

• Usually they are present in such low concentrations that you cannot taste the bitterness. However, these plants contain compounds that usually attract certain beetles, which damage crops by direct feeding on foliage and flowers, and also by transmitting bacterial wilt, which can kill the vines. Diseased or damaged zucchini has a higher chance of tasting bitter.

• Environmental causes: Although cucumber fruits can produce high levels of cucurbitacins in response to environmental stress such as high temperatures and drought low soil fertility, low soil pH, etc, high cucurbitacin levels in cucumbers and zucchini are, in fact, the influence of a single gene. Therefore, a plant that produces extremely bitter zucchini is likely to produce bitter fruit every time. 

• Very rarely a mutant plant or a chance cross with a wild species may result in cultivated plants with Cucurbitacin E. There will be an acrid smell when you cut the zucchini, and just a mild contact of the flesh to your tongue will have an extremely unpleasant and bitter taste.

A cautionary note: Eating bitter zucchinis have been known to cause people to experience vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea. Do not eat zucchinis that have a strong unpleasant smell or taste bitter.

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