Can You Pickle Bitter Cucumbers? What to Expect?

Have you ever tasted a bitter cucumber? If not, you are lucky. Otherwise, you must know how a single bite can ruin your appetite.

Bitter cucumbers are commonly found in grocery stores and gardens, there is no predefined way to identify bitter cucumbers.

The first solution that usually comes to people’s minds for bitter cucumbers is to pickle them.

So, can you pickle bitter cucumbers? Or are there any ways to take out the bitterness of cucumbers? Here is all you need to know.

Can You Pickle Bitter Cucumbers?

Yes, you can pickle bitter cucumbers, but it is not advised. The ingredients of pickles can mask the bitterness of cucumbers, but if cucurbitacin is in greater concentration, it can be harmful. So, it is better to cure the bitterness of cucumbers before pickling them.

Why are Your Cucumbers Bitter?

Cucumbers are bitter because of the chemical called cucurbitacin found in the stems, leaves, and roots of the cucumber plants. The chemical is a natural way of protection against animals and pests.

Though cucurbitacin is not usually found in fruit, it can spread into fruit under certain conditions. And if it does, it is mainly found in the fruit’s peel, not in the inner part. This is why slightly bitter cucumbers are not considered harmful.

There are different reasons why cucurbitacin penetrates the peel of the fruit. The prime reason is the lack of water availability or irregular irrigation. So, if you are growing cucumbers at home, water them appropriately.

Cucumbers can also get bitter if grown in a greenhouse or a shaded area. They need appropriate exposure to sunlight. Extreme weather conditions, such as prolonged droughts or heavy rainfalls, can also lead to bitter cucumbers.

Another significant reason for cucumbers’ bitterness is the soil’s lack of nitrogen and potassium. So, carefully select the location for planting cucumbers.

If the soil is not adequately enriched, the cucumbers might be bitter. You can use fertilizer to maintain the nutrient concentration in the soil. Miracle-Gro plant food (buy it here) can help you fight the spread of cucurbitacin in the plant.

Tips for Growing Cucumbers at Home:

  • If you are growing cucumbers at home, you must take certain precautions to ensure you don’t get bitter cucumbers.
  • Firstly, water the plant regularly and make sure the soil is moist.
  • You can check the moisture of the soil by digging it.
  • The soil should be moist for cucumbers until at least 15 cm down the surface.
  • You can use EZ Straw Seeding (buy it here) mulch to enhance the soil’s moisture.
  • Different varieties of cucumbers also vary in degrees of cucurbitacin concentration. So, select the seeds carefully.
  • Make sure you choose the sweet varieties or those with unique genes to prevent the spread of cucurbitacin in the fruit.

Will Bitter Cucumbers Taste Differently After Pickling?

Yes, if you do it right, the ingredients of the pickle can mask the bitterness of cucumbers.

You can also use several methods to take out the bitterness of cucumbers before pickling them. However, you should give it some time, as bitter cucumbers take longer to pickle.

Also read: Sudden Death of Cucumber Plant? What is it?

What’s the Best Way to Pickle Bitter Cucumbers for the Best Taste?

When pickling bitter cucumbers, it is better to cure the bitterness beforehand. You can use salt, heat treatment, or the milking method to extract cucurbitacin from the fruit.

As mentioned, pickling cucumbers don’t cure the bitterness. The bitterness is masked due to vinegar and other ingredients in the pickle.

You can use the following two methods, commonly found to be successful, for taking out the bitterness from cucumbers.

1. Use Salt:

You can use salt to take out the bitterness of cucumbers. Sprinkle salt on the cucumbers and let them rest for almost half an hour. The salt will extract the cucurbitacin from the cucumber.

After the specified time, you can wash the cucumber with cool water to remove extracted cucurbitacin and sprinkled salt. This way, cucumbers won’t be salty, and the bitterness will also be removed. You can use them for pickles as well as salads.

If you don’t want to use cucumbers for fresh dishes, you can also keep them in salted cool water for almost half an hour.

Though it is an effective way of curing bitterness, you cannot consume these cucumbers in their natural form. They can only be pickled.

2. Milking the Cucumber:

Though it is considered an old wives’ tale, it can be helpful if the cucumbers are not too bitter. The process includes extracting cucurbitacin from the cucumber peel.

All you have to do is cut the ends of the cucumber. Now, take one piece and rub it on the side of the cucumber. A white foamy substance will extract, which is thought to be cucurbitacin.

Many argue the white foamy substance is not cucurbitacin, and even if it is cucurbitacin, rubbing the ends of cucumber won’t possibly extract cucurbitacin from the whole fruit.

However, you should try and see if it works for you.

3. Combine Different Techniques:

You can also combine different methods if you are unsure which one will work for you. You can use the milking method and sprinkle cucumbers with salt or keep them in salted water. This way, the bitterness will probably go away.

How Long Should You Pickle Bitter Cucumbers?

I advise pickling bitter cucumbers for several weeks to mask their bitterness properly.

Pickling bitter cucumbers are different from pickling normal cucumbers. Bitter cucumbers take a long time to pick up the taste of other ingredients.

What are the Other Things You Can Do with Bitter Cucumbers?

Two methods of taking out bitterness from cucumbers are already mentioned. Besides the milking method and salted water, you can use the fork furrow or sugar method.

The specialty of these two methods is that you can use cucumbers for fresh dishes after using these methods.

1. Fork Furrow Method:

The method is pretty simple. All you have to do is cut the ends of the fruit and peel the skin. (You can also use the sliced ends for the milking method as an additional effort). Now, get a fork and run it vertically on the bare surface of the cucumber.

You will see furrows made as a result of running forks. Repeat the process at least two times; it will help extract cucurbitacin.

Once you are done, rinse the cucumber with cool water to wash away extracted cucurbitacin before slicing.

2. Sugar Water:

Though salts are preferred for taking out the bitterness of cucumbers, you can also use sugar. However, it is advised to use sugar only when using cucumbers in sweet dishes.

If you are using sugar-treated cucumbers in salty dishes, you might get a sweet taste, even after you have washed them thoroughly with cool water.