One of the joys of the summer garden is slicing up a cucumber straight off the vine and savoring that first crisp, cool bite. Well, it's a joy when the cucumber tastes the way it should, with that sweet, refreshing flavor that alludes to a clear mountain spring. But sometimes, for no apparent reason, one will taste bitter.
How does that happen, and more importantly, what can you do about it? If you follow these tips to minimize a cucumber's greatest enemy—stress—you'll prevent bitterness, as well as most of the other problems that may have marred your cuke harvest in the past, such as pests and diseases. And I promise that this year you'll enjoy crisp, tasty cucumbers, just the way they should be.
(Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)
Some cukes start out bitter, but some become bitter because of conditions in their environment, many of which you can control. Plants that are stressed are more likely to become bitter, but the degree of bitterness depends on the severity of the stress. Stress in a plant is most often caused by insufficient and uneven moisture, but temperature extremes and poor nutrition can also play a part. Minimize stress and maximize flavor by following these seven steps.