Cucumbers grown in the wrong conditions can become bitter or tasteless. Here is a simple tried and true tip for having the sweetest cucumbers in town.
Want Sweeter Cucumbers?
If you want your cucumbers to be sweeter, plant them alongside sunflowers. As they grow, the cucumber tendrils will use the stout sunflower stalks for climbing support, and you’ll have the sweetest cucumbers you’ve ever eaten. This is known as companion planting. When you plant and combine certain plants, they benefit each other, which impacts the plants’ health, taste, and yield.
What Makes them Sweeter?
When planted using this method, each plant then selects and rejects certain nutrients that alter its flavors. In other words, the companion plant makes the cucumbers sweeter by absorbing the nutrient that normally makes them bitter.
Cucumbers contain naturally occurring compounds known as cucurbitacins. The higher the level of cucurbitacins, the more bitter the cucumber will taste. Weather conditions that are too hot, or too cold can cause an increase in cucurbitacin levels, as can a lack of proper watering.
Sunflowers release an enzyme called elastase which naturally reduces the amount of cucurbitacins within the cucumber.
Cucumber Growing Tips
To ensure that your homegrown cucumbers aren’t high in bitter cucurbitacins, always plant them with sunflowers. Space them at least 8″ apart to avoid overcrowding (or grow them as we do in weed-free self-watering hydroponic grow buckets!).
Cucumbers need plenty of water, never allow the soil to go completely dry between waterings. Again, you can easily prevent this issue altogether with the self-watering grow bucket method. The buckets always have a constant, maintenance-free water supply.
Temperatures that are consistently in the ’90s or higher will cause natural stress and increase the chances of higher levels of cucurbitacins. Planting with sunflowers provides natural afternoon shade, filtering the harsh sun.
For more Companion Planting tips on getting the most from your garden, check out our Companion Planting Guide.
If you’ve purchased cucumbers and want to avoid the bitterness that they sometimes contain, try this simple Bitter Cucumber Cure.
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