Bite into a cucumber. Instead of crisp deliciousness, you get a bitter taste. What happened?!!?
Fruit can turn bitter for several different reasons. Unfortunately, once a plant produces bitter-tasting fruit, you may as well cut it off at ground level and start over because most of the fruit from then on will have the same taste. Also, the chemicals that cause bitterness can make you sick. In extreme cases, they can even kill you. So, what makes fruit turn bitter, and how can it be prevented?
Plants vulnerable to bitterness
summer squashes, melons, pumpkins, and cucumbers, and all other cucurbits can develop bitter fruit. To a lesser degree, the cabbage family (broccoli and kale) and members of the rose family can also be affected. The rose family includes almonds, apricots, pears, plums, peaches, loquats, cherries, quinces, and strawberries.
Causes of bitter fruit
Chemicals called cucurbitacins turn fruit bitter. When the plant becomes overly stressed, it increases the production of cucurbitacins, which then make their way into the fruit. Scientists believe plants produce these chemicals to discourage feeding by herbivores (and us). Common causes of stress that leads to bitter fruit include:
Steps to prevent bitter fruit
If your cukes have started turning bitter, you can still eat much of the fruit by peeling it and tossing the stem end into the compost pile. If it still tastes bitter, compost it. The chemicals will disperse and break down.
Help your cucumbers, melons, and summer squash stay sweet with proper irrigation and sun protection.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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