How To: The Unexplainable Trick to Removing Bitterness from Cucumbers

The Unexplainable Trick to Removing Bitterness from Cucumbers

Every now and then, you'll bite into the end piece of a perfectly good cucumber only to get an unwelcome bitter and acrid taste. This happened to me for years, no matter how carefully I selected my cukes, although I generally had better luck with ones I got from local growers and the farmer's market.

Oregon State explains the culprit is an organic compound called cucurbitacin, which tends to concentrate in the leaves, stems, and roots. However, it can travel to the fruit itself, but is more likely to be found at the stem end for just that reason. It rarely moves toward the center of the fruit.

No word on whether the heart-shaped varieties are less prone to bitterness, but they sure are pretty. Image via Kurt Koontz

Purdue University points out that stressors like lack of water or excessive heat can cause cucumbers to produce more bitterness. Most places recommend peeling cucumbers of their dark green skin, since other than the stem end, that's where cucurbitacin is most likely to gather.

However, most of the nutrients in cucumbers are concentrated in the skin and the seeds. Plus, I hate losing the rich color and crisp snap the skin provides. So how else can we rid cucumbers of their bitterness without sacrificing the skin? Thankfully, there's an old trick I learned from my Indian friend's mom to remove the bitterness from cucumbers, and it's super easy.

First, wash your cucumbers thoroughly. Then cut a small piece off from both the stem and blossom ends. I usually try and make the piece no larger than about half an inch.

Next, place the cut piece back on the cucumber and start rubbing the flat ends together.

Pretty soon, a white foamy substance will appear. Keep doing this for a minute or two until the cucumber stops producing fresh foam.

Then repeat on the other end. Rinse it off, and the cucumber is ready to eat. Watch the complete how-to video below from YouTuber etriliun to see this process in action.

I'm not really sure why this works. The video above speculates that the action draws out the curcurbitacins. Others say it's just an old folk tale with no basis in science. All I know is that I've never eaten a bitter cucumber when I've remembered to perform this little trick, but I've bitten into many an unpleasant one when I haven't.

What do you think? Science, folk tale, or placebo effect? Tell us you theory below in the comments, or hit up Food Hacks on Facebook or Twitter to share your thoughts.

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Cover image via Bless Her Heart


My mother taught me that method 60 years ago and she had used it all her life. I thiought it was common practice. I was wrong apparently.

All of my Indian friends seem to know this trick, but it was definitely new to me.

I was taught to put some salt and then rub the raw surfaces as described
It works & I thought it was by osmosis but if it works without the salt then there has to be some other explanation

OMG we been doin that for years back home my mother thought us to do that

Multiple generations of my family have been pickling for countless decades. This food hack was never apparent to anyone in my family (to my knowledge, anyway -- I am the "family recipe preserver"). So I'm very thankful for this post! Actually, just picked some cukes out of our garden about an hour ago for lunch & took a very bitter bite! Then I thought.. "You know.. I need to google this." This was the first article that came up. Haven't tried it with salt just yet, but the salt-free method works. Again, Thank you! ^_^

I have a garden full of cucumbers, living in Fresno, its always hot and they have been bitter. I have been throwing them away. I did not dig up the plant with the hope that when the weather cools down I might get a few edible cucumbers. I just tried this technique and am happy to report, it works!! A cucumber miracle!!! Thank you for this tip!!

Simple hack: Hold the cucumber firmly with both hands and snap into 2 right down the middle in one motion. Done! No need to rub slices together at all. Trust me. This works.

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