En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Bitterness in cucumbers

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
1 rating

Saturday - June 24, 2006

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Edible Plants
Title: Bitterness in cucumbers
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Bitter Cukes: We have a question about Burpless Burpee cucumbers. We've planted them with success several years in a row in our Austin backyard. This year, although the cucumbers look fine, they are extremely bitter tasting and not fit to eat. Could fertilizer be the culprit?

ANSWER:

There is agreement on what compounds cause the bitterness in cucumbers. They are cucurbitacin B and cucurbitacin C and these occur in all parts of the plant—leaves, stem, roots—but rarely in the fruit. Another compound produced by the cucumber, an enzyme called elaterase, modifies the cucurbitacins to reduce their bitter flavor. The variable amount of bitterness found from year to year or from plant to plant or even from fruit to fruit on the same plant is thought to depend on the activity of the elaterase. Environmental conditions—temperature or moisture, for instance—may affect the amount of elaterase produced. However, there is no clear agreement on exactly what those environmental factors are. Sources in the northwest and in California cite cool temperatures as being a major cause for the bitterness; whereas, Texas A&M PlantAnswers implicates hot temperatures. Temperature stress might be a better description of the cause of bitterness. There is some evidence that water stress could also be responsible. One thing that you might try is being sure that your plants are well watered. This could result in the fruits that are developing now being less bitter.

One solution you may have is to peel and trim your cucumbers extensively before you eat them. The stem end typically is bitterer than the flower end of the fruit. Also, right under the skin is usually bitterer. By careful peeling away of the skin and some of the outer flesh and removing more of the stem end of the fruit you may be able to enjoy the ones you have.

 

More Edible Plants Questions

Plants for floodplain in Fairfield, New Jersey
March 21, 2010 - I have an easy question for you... I hope... We just moved into the floodplains of NJ in Fairfield and are interested in some plants. We would like to know what plants are best suited to grow in flood...
view the full question and answer

Dead or Dormant Chile Pequins in Corpus Christi
November 12, 2010 - We have 4 chile pequin and 5 chiltepin plants growing our yard. All were thriving beautifully until we took a 12-day vacation in late July. There was little rain during that time but overall this y...
view the full question and answer

Digging sassafras roots in Oklahoma
March 11, 2009 - When should I dig sassafras roots in eastern Oklahoma?
view the full question and answer

Wild onions in southwest Michigan
June 06, 2007 - During the spring every year there are "Volunteer Onions" that grow in my lawn and garden. I live in Michigan, sw. question---are these onions? what are they--they smell like onions--- can they be e...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants wild sweet pea
July 28, 2005 - We were asked if the seed pods of the wild sweet pea are edible. (California)
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center