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I am a cooking dummy and I hate bitter cucumbers. :) Help!

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8 Answers 8

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The biggest thing you can do is peel it. If a cucumber's bitter, it's much more in the peel than in the flesh. It's also usually more bitter at the stem end, so you might want to start from the other end, and possibly ultimately discard an inch from the stem end if it really is too bitter for you. Unless you're unusually sensitive to the bitterness, that ought to cover it.

Bitterness is also fairly variable from cucumber to cucumber, so it's possible that you could shop for less bitter ones - maybe a different variety - or buy them only during more favorable seasons.

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I once saw someone take 1" off the stem end and then rub it in a circular motion around the end of remaining cuke they had cut it from. They believed that this somehow drew out the bitterness. I assume this is nonsense, though I've never made any effort to prove it. –  Michael at Herbivoracious Jan 17 '11 at 0:03
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@Michael: Surely if anything, that'd transfer a bit of bitterness to the rest of the cucumber. If they've figured out a way to make something diffuse from lower concentration to higher concentration, I think plenty of physicists would like to hear about it. –  Jefromi Jan 17 '11 at 0:21
    
@Jefromi - an excellent point. I could make up some crazy theory, but I think it is pretty clearly just nonsense. –  Michael at Herbivoracious Jan 17 '11 at 2:07
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@Michael - I have a friend who does this too. Best guess is that cutting off the stem end and throwing it away suffices, because the bitter is in the stem end. The circle rubbing is ritual. But I won't tell my friend that, she's insistent it works. –  Kate Gregory Jan 17 '11 at 13:07
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@calico Are you saying that bitter white stuff comes out of the "good" part, after you cut off the stem end? I've never seen that happen. (Or out of the "bad" part, for that matter.) –  Jefromi Jan 21 '11 at 15:24
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I buy at the farmer's market from a gentleman that I know grows his well and they are always sweet- peel or no peel.

He told me that bitterness in cucumbers is primarily a factor of how they were grown. Cucumbers with a consistent watering schedule will be sweeter than those that are grown with less attention.

The amount of sunlight and heat makes a difference too.

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+1: I wanted to mention more about the gardening side; most of what you find when searching the web is about what to do about bitter cucumbers in your garden. Too bad there's no way to look at one in the store and know how well it was watered! –  Jefromi Jan 17 '11 at 15:29
    
It also depends on the variety. Some cucumber varieties are naturally more bitter than others due to the presence of cucurbitacin. –  calico-cat Jan 21 '11 at 9:46
    
@Jefromi - I agree with you. I love cucumbers and, like tomatoes, I only buy them in the grocery store as a last resort. –  Sobachatina Jan 25 '11 at 14:54
    
A friend of mine who grew cucumbers as a sideline told me that the trick to prevent bitterness is to pick off all the male flowers on a daily basis, as soon as you can see them. –  klypos Aug 17 '12 at 21:32
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I have never encountered a bitter cucumber. Or maybe I just like the bitterness they have -- I bemoan the selective breeding of brussels sprouts to remove bitterness, after all.

Something that works for courgettes, though, is to slice them, salt them, and allow them to stand for 20 mins or so. The salt will draw out the bitter juice. Rinse away the salty water before cooking. This is probably no use if you want to eat the cucumber raw, as it will ruin any crispness the cucumber has.

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I guess that you really have never encountered a bitter cucumber. I enjoy bitter food myself, and while for low-bitter foods I might not even register that it is there (while somebody who hates bitter will note even small amounts in disgust), I certainly notice it on a conscious level in mid- to strong bitter levels. And bitter cucumbers are certainly on the strong end of the scale. –  rumtscho Jan 25 '13 at 23:45
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Cucumbers contain a bitter compound called cucurbitacin that can be found in the skin and just underneath.

There is a trick you can do to reduce the bitterness without having to peel the cucumber. Cut 1/2cm off the stem end and rub it in a circular pattern against the cut flesh in a circle. This will yield a slimy white substance - this is the stuff that makes the cucumber bitter, and by drawing it out, there will be less in the cucumber :) No need to peel!

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As stated above, the amount of cucurbitacin depends on the variety, as well as the growing conditions. I believe that well-watered cucumbers will contain less cucurbitacin. –  calico-cat Jan 21 '11 at 20:12
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I find that more than anything, getting a sweet cucumber comes down to selecting it correctly.

I have purchased hundreds of cucumbers (and I prefer to eat them with the skin on). What I've noticed is that cucumbers whose skins are both shiny and smooth, and the cucumber itself is firm when you squeeze it are almost always going to be sweeter than a cucumber whose skin is even slightly wrinkled, is rough to the touch, has a more matte appearance, and/or the cucumber is a bit soft.

And when I say smooth, I'm not referring to the bumps that you often find on cucumbers (that kind of remind me of a humpback whale ;) Bumps or no bumps, what I mean is how the skin itself feels to the touch. The smoother it is, the better the taste.

These factors might be an indication of how the cucumber was raised, which as others have suggested, could be the reason behind whether the cucumber will be bitter or sweet.

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Sometimes shinyness signifies a waxed cucumber rather than a fresh one. Lack of firmness is a definite warning sign. –  Wayfaring Stranger Jan 5 at 15:42
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Chilling them in the fridge seems to help.

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Try growing “Lemon Cucumbers”. they grow to about softball size, are very sweet and never bitter. They pickle great and always are crunchy and sweet. The only drawback is that they do not last but 2 days in the fridge before they start drying out. The skin is more edible than regular cucumbers. My kids pick them and eat them, after washing, right from the vine. Theya re a great novelty when given away to frinds and family. The vines continue to provide cucumbers later into the year than regular cucs. You can order them online.

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I buy pickling cucumbers I like then much better

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Hello, and welcome to our site. We are a Q&A site, and have some rules which differ from traditional forums. We expect each new post to be a direct answer to the question. Are you saying that pickling cucumbers are less bitter than standard ones? If yes, this is a valid answer, but it would be better to edit it into your post so others can understand it better. –  rumtscho Jun 24 at 17:58
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