WHY DOES SQUASH TASTE BITTER?
It’s common for vegetables like zucchini and cucumber, both members of the squash family, to taste bitter sometimes, much to the frustration of both the consumer as well as the famer who grows the produce.
Both cucumber and zucchini are members of the Cucurbit family, which also includes pumpkins, melons, squash and gourds. All of these cucurbits produce a group of chemicals called cucurbitacins, which cause the vegetables to taste bitter; the higher the concentration of cucurbitacin, the more bitter the vegetable will taste.
Usually, commercially grown vegetables and squashes will have little or no bitterness in them. However, if you do happen to get a nasty bitter taste from a squash from your garden or your vegetable store, there can be a variety of reasons attributing to that. Some of them are as follows:
• Higher levels of cucurbitacin are commonly triggered by environmental stress. Environmental stress can include high temperatures, wide temperature swings or too little water.
• Uneven watering practices (too wet followed by too dry), low soil fertility and low soil pH are also possible stress factors.
• Over-mature or improperly stored cucurbits may also develop a mild bitterness.
• Beware of eating extremely bitter zucchini or cucumber; these can potentially cause severe stomach cramps and diarrhea.
• It has been proposed that the bitterness might also be due to rare cross-pollination with a bitter-fruited cucurbit during seed production, and subsequent planting and growth of a seed with the genes for bitterness.
Incidentally, cucurbitacins, although responsible in the bitter taste of cucumbers and zucchini, also give a cantaloupe its musky scent.
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