I am a cooking dummy and I hate bitter cucumbers. :) Help!
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.
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.
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!
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 not waxy), 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.
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.
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.
I found that some of my cucumbers this year were bitter and did some reading up on why: heat and eratic watering . . . But I discovered a way to salvage the bitter cukes: I peel them and then soak them in cold salt water for a half hour - the salt seems to take out the bitterness and still leaves them crunchy for salads or sandwiches . . . Thought someone else might want to give it a try! It works for me . . .
Chilling them in the fridge seems to help.
My mother used to say that you peel from flower end to stem end. Seems to work. I have tried doing the cutting end off and rubbing...that seemed to work as well.