Cucumber Tastes Like Chemicals: Are They Safe To Eat?

Cucumbers are the center of your vegetable salads. But when they leave a chemical taste in your mouth, it’s surely not something you want.

So, why does your cucumber taste like chemicals?

Cucumbers have a chemical compound named cucurbitacin, that contributes to the bitterness or chemical taste. Cucurbitacin is natural and has health benefits, so eating a bitter cucumber is fine. But putting stress on the plant can increase the cucurbitacin causing the cucumber to be too bitter. Lack of water, sun, fertilizers, and using pesticides are common reasons that put the plant under stress.

As we progress, we will discuss more about why the cucumber tastes like chemicals and what you can do about it.

Why Does Cucumber Taste Like Chemicals?

Other than natural causes there are some other reasons why your cucumber is tasting like chemicals.

why does my cucumber taste like chemicals
Source: Good Housekeeping

Cucumber Wasn’t Washed:

If you bought your cucumbers from a store and did not wash it properly before eating, they may taste a bit more bitter than usual. That’s because preservatives are used on  store-bought cucumbers. 

So, when you are eating an unwashed cucumber, you are probably tasting the preservatives. Naturally, it’s unhealthy to eat fruits or vegetables without properly washing them first. So, don’t forget to wash your fruits and vegetables before eating them.

Overripe Cucumber:

Overripe cucumbers tend to taste more bitter than usual, so if you’re not a fan of the chemical taste, you should avoid overripening cucumbers. But what does an overripe cucumber look like?

An overripe cucumber will probably be quite large and will have a yellowish color. When you cut one of these cucumbers, it may also look a bit yellowish on the inside too. Turning yellow is not usually a good sign for plants, for example, a snake plant turning yellow means it’s dying.

Overripe Cucumber
Source: Naturalists Table

Although they may taste a bit bitter, they are safe to eat and there are uses for an overripe cucumber.

Not Watered Enough:

If you have been growing your cucumbers at home, underwatering could be the reason why it tastes bitter or like chemicals. Cucumbers that are grown with less water than necessary become bitter because of the stress the plant went through. 

The lack of male flowers on a cucumber plant is also a sign of stress. 

Normally a cucumber plant needs consistently moist soil with an inch of water every week. But if there temperature is higher than usual or if there is no rain, the plant will need more water than the normal amount. 

Lack of Nutrients:

Other than the lack of water, not getting enough fertilizer or sunlight can put the plant under stress. As a result, the cucumber it produces will leave a bitter taste in your mouth. 

You need to fertilize your cucumber plants for 1 week before they are blooming. From there, apply fertilizer every 3 weeks. It’s also important not to overfertilize the plant, it will adversely impact the harvest too. 

Grown With Pesticides:

If you or whoever grew these cucumbers used pesticides, the chemical taste could be due to that. You are either tasting an aftertaste of the pesticide or the chemicals have altered the natural taste of it.


Cucumbers are heavy feeders and they do not like competition, meaning they need a lot of nutrients. So, make sure you clean up all the weeds around them. Also, while planting your cucumbers, make sure to space them correctly.

Is It Normal For Cucumber To Taste Like Chemical/ Bitter?

Yes, it is normal for a cucumber to taste bitter. Cucumbers and other similar vegetables like zucchini, have a chemical compound name cucurbitacin. This chemical is the cause of their bitterness.

However, the level of cucurbitacin differs and depends on how the plant is treated. Too much stress can increase the level of cucurbitacin, causing it to taste more bitter than usual. 

Also, bitterness is a natural defense of the plant to discourage animals who would try to eat it.

But is a bitter cucumber safe to eat?

Yes, a bitter cucumber is safe to eat. Bitter cucumbers are not poisonous and even healthy. But if you are not used to having bitter foods, you should avoid it as it may cause nausea. 

Eating a bitter cucumber is not just safe but also healthier than you may think. For example-

  • Cucurbitacins, the bitter compound that makes cucumbers bitter, can stop the growth of cancer cells. 
  • Cucurbitacins have anti-inflammatory properties. So, if you have diseases like arthritis or asthma, bitter cucumbers can help. 
  • Cucurbitacins are powerful antioxidants that can help to protect cells from damage by free radicals. They can help against diseases like heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
  • In terms of liver protection, cucurbitacins also do a good job. They guard our liver from damage and even help it function better when it’s dealing with liver disease.
  • Cucurbitacins help lower your blood sugar. 
  • A cucurbitacin’s ability to fight bacteria and fungi is unmatched. 

What To Do With A Bitter Cucumber? 

So, you have some cucumbers that are too bitter for you to eat. What do you do now? Do you throw them out? Absolutely not! Here are some home remedies to reduce the bitterness of a cucumber-

  • Peel the skin and cut the stem off: The cucumber is the most bitter right under the skin and in the stems. So, you can try peeling the skin and cutting the stem off. 

Take a fork and run its tines up and down lengthwise until the cucumber is covered with fork furrows. Repeat this twice, then wash the cucumber before eating.

  • Use salt: Sometimes eating the cucumber with salt can improve the taste. 
  • Milk your cucumber: Milking the cucumber may take the bitterness out of the cucumber and make it taste fresh. To milk your cucumber you can cut the edge off and start rubbing the two pieces together in a circular motion. After rubbing it for 5-10 seconds you will see some white stuff coming out. 

Keep rubbing until you get a lot of white stuff out and then wash the cucumber. Now, it should taste less bitter and better.

Here’s a video to make things easy for you-

How to Keep Cucumber From Being Bitter?

home grown cucumbers taste like chemicals
Source: iDiva

If your current batch of cucumbers turned out bitter, you know how you can reduce the bitterness. Now, let’s show you how you can prevent the next harvest from being bitter.

  • Water the plant properly. Apply an inch of water every week. In dry conditions, increase the amount of water.
  • Sow cucumber seeds in a weed-free bed, and space them appropriately when planting in the spring. Trellised cucumbers should be spaced 8-12 inches apart. If you’re growing mounded cucumbers, space them 3 feet apart. 
  • Unless you live in a very warm climate, do not plant cucumbers in areas shaded by taller crops. 
  • You should add compost to your planting beds when preparing them, and side-dress the plants regularly during the growing season. 
  • You should give your cucumbers balanced fertilizers every 4 to 6 weeks if your soil is not ideal. Cucumbers are not a vegetable that grows well on rocky soil, keep that in your mind.
  • Harvest at the right time. Keeping the cucumbers too long on the vine will make the overripe, which will make them bitter. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

How to tell if a cucumber is bad?

To tell if a cucumber is bad, look for wrinkles, dents, or discoloration on the skin. Visible mold is also an obvious sign of spoilage. If you notice any of these signs or an unpleasant odor, it’s best to discard the cucumber. 

Why do I feel weird after eating cucumber?

Cucumbers contain cucurbitacin, which may cause digestive problems and discomfort in some people. This is especially true for those with digestive issues. Also, overeating cucumbers can lead to bloating, indigestion, and discomfort.

Why should we not eat cucumber empty stomach?

You should not be eating cucumber on an empty stomach can cause flatulence, abdominal pain, and heartburn. That’s because it contains a high amount of amino acid.


So, if your cucumber tastes like chemicals, don’t be alarmed. It is completely normal for them to taste bitter. But if it’s too bitter, you can follow our tips to improve its taste.

If you are growing the cucumber yourself, take proper care so that it doesn’t turn out bitter.

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