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Why Are My Cucumbers Bitter?

What Makes Cucumbers Bitter? and How to Prevent it

Yuk! Bitter cucumbers! That’s what happened to some of ours this year. If your cucumbers are bitter, here are the most common causes of bitter cukes.

Too much stress can cause cucumbers to turn bitter. Stressed conditions are related to growing environment and weather conditions. In fact these factors are typically what causes crop stress and failure in general.


  • Too hot
  • Too little sun – (cucumber need mostly full sun)
  • Too dry – (mulch to help retain moisture)
  • Too little water – (water regularly)
  • Poor soil – (enrich soil with compost; also mulch to prevent weeds leaching nutrients)B

Non-Bitter Cucumber Varieties

  • Aria
  • Burpless Hybrid
  • Chelsea Prize
  • Chinese Snake
  • County Fair 83
  • Green Fingers Persian
  • Holland
  • Jazzer
  • Lemon
  • Marketmore 80
  • Muncher
  • Striped Armenian
  • Summer Dance
  • Suyo Long (or Soyo Japanese variety)
  • Sweet Slice
  • Sweet Success
  • Wautoma

However… “Although burpless varieties are bred to produce fewer cucurbitacins, they don’t have the gene that would make them bitter-free, so they could produce more cucurbitacins if growing conditions become unfavorable.” 1)

Cucurbitacin can be found in many common garden plants, including zucchini and broccoli of the cucurbita pepo and brassicaceae families. In extreme cases, excessive cucurbitacin can lead to death, so it’s better to avoid consuming the bitter vegetables. 1)

“Bitter-free plants always produce bitter-free fruit, even under stress conditions,” Todd C. Wehner, Ph.D., professor of horticultural science and plant breeder at North Carolina State University.

Resources 1) 1) 1) 1)

Hope this helps! We’re sure going to heed this for next year.

Meanwhile, what you can do with your bitter cucumbers?

* Try peeling them.
* Cut off 1-2″ off the stem end and discard as the bitter accumulates most in the leaves, skin and stems.

Never Give Up

Don’t give up. Each season in the garden is about learning more and growing better.

Beginner gardeners are sometimes baffled by how things they grow aren’t as perfect or as tasty as store bought. There are a number of reasons for this. Sometimes it’s just that the taste is better and fresher but they’re not used to it. For instance, arugula, a.k.a. “rocket”, tastes much more tangy and peppery fresh from our garden than anything we buy. We think it’s delicious, but to someone not used to really fresh vegetables, the strong flavor might be overpowering at first.

The most common reasons for cucumber bitterness is a lack of something.



How to Prevent Bitter Cucumbers – (expanding on this)

Too hot – One of the most common reasons why a cucumber is bitter is due to heat stress. If a plant is stressed due to heat, it may start producing bitter cucumbers.

Solution: One solution to this is mulch. Mulch helps keep plants warmer when it’s cool and cooler when it’s hot, so when it gets really hot, you could try piling up some cool composting leaf mulch. Cucumbers do best below 90℉/32℃, so if your temps get over the low to mid 90’s, cover with cloche or grow in an area with afternoon shade.

Uneven watering
– Another possibility for what causes bitter cucumber is if a cucumber goes through alternating periods of drought and overwatering, the stress from this can cause the plant to produce bitter fruit.

Solution: Best solution to this we’re loving is the drip hose. So much better than the sprinklers, but if you need to go with a sprinkler for now, this is the best selling sprinkler on Amazon.

Temperature fluctuations
– If the temperature fluctuates dramatically from one extreme to another over an extended period of time, the plant may start producing bitter cucumbers.

Solution: If you live in a zone with high fluctuations, you might try straw bale gardening and hoop covers to work with reducing the dramatic temp differences.1)

– Perhaps the most frustrating reason why a cucumber is bitter is simple genetics. There is a recessive trait that can cause a plant to produce bitter fruit from the start. You may plant seeds from the same packet and treat them all the same, only to discover one of the plants produces bitter cucumbers.2)

Solution: Try some of the non-bitter cucumber varieties such as those listed above.

The very best remedy for bitter cucumbers is ideal growing conditions.

Like people, our vegetables need a good environment and ideal growing conditions.

shutterstock_130102997Remedy from the GardensAll community (we’ll add more as they roll in):
“Mix one part milk with 2 parts water, put in sprayer and spray plants. Old timey, but effective remedy.”

Bottom line? Don’t give up!

Cucumbers are a wonderful summer fruit (yes, botanically, cucumber is classified as a fruit!), that refresh salads, are essential to gazpacho, make awesome green juice, and of course… pickles! 3)

And, if you haven’t tried gherkins… also known as cucamelons, you might want to give those a go this season. We love them!4) So…

If at first you don’t succeed… grow, grow again!

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