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Why Do My Cucumbers Taste Like Fish – 3 Key Reasons

Nothing is worse than when you take the first bite of your freshly prepared garden salad and are hit with the faint taste of fish. Not only is the taste revolting, but it can also mean deeper issues are at hand. Why do my cucumbers taste like fish?

Cucumbers can taste like fish if they are transported near or stored with fish within the same refrigerated space. They may also have bad taste if picked at the wrong time or if they have begun to rot. 

Picking up vegetables from a store or farmers’ market can be a bit of a gamble. You never know how long it has been since they were picked, what they were transported near, and how long they have been sitting on the shelves. While most of the time, these vegetables are fresh and delicious, there are chances that they may not be as delicious as you had hoped. 

Picked at the Wrong Time 

If you have any experience gardening or growing vegetables, you know that each crop has an ideal time to harvest. Harvesting too early can result in vegetables that are not ripe and may taste bitter or even sour. 

Vegetables need time to ripen appropriately on their vines. Even if vegetables can ripen off their vines, like tomatoes, the flavor of the vine-ripened versus counter-ripened vegetables taste different; it is best to allow the vegetable to remain on the vine until it is completely ripe.

You can tell a vegetable is ripe by the color and texture. For tomatoes, look for the shiny, red, and plump skin to appear. You will keep an eye out for a bright green color and a length of 6-8 inches in cucumbers.

It is recommended to err on caution and pick the cucumbers when they are just turning ripe. Letting a cucumber sit on the vine too long can lead to wet, soggy, wrinkly, yellow cucumbers that are not fit for human consumption. 

If you pick a cucumber too early, it will be raw. The inside of the cucumber will be hard and not the enjoyable texture we know and love from cucumbers. They may also taste incredibly bitter. However, there are other causes of a bitter cucumber plant. 

Stored Next to Fish

The most common reason your cucumber would taste like fish is cross-contamination. This happens when your cucumber touches places or things that have also come in contact with raw fish. The most common household items that would carry the fish taste would be a cutting board or knife that was used to cut the fish. 

Always wash your cutting boards and utensils after handling raw meat and fish. In fact, it is recommended to use dedicated cutting boards for raw meat, so the risk of bacteria or cross-contamination is low. Color-coded cutting boards are an excellent kitchen investment. Use green for vegetables and fruit, red for meat and fish, and blue for onions and garlic.

If you did not cut any fish in your home and did not store any fish in your fridge near your cucumbers, the cucumber might have come in contact with fish at some point in its journey from the farm to the grocery store. 

Sadly, we do not know exactly where our vegetables come from or what they have come in contact with during their transit. Even at the grocery store, a worker could have been cutting fish and then come to stack the cucumbers. This is why it is essential to always wash your fruit and vegetables when you arrive home from the store before eating them. 

Old Cucumbers

Even if you just picked up the cucumber today, it could taste bad because it is old and beginning to decay. We do not know how long it takes for vegetables to make it from the farm to the grocery store aisle, nor how long that particular cucumber has been sitting there.

You can inspect your cucumber for signs of aging at the store before you purchase it. Check the skin; if it is green with no discoloration, that is a good sign. You also want to check for plumpness. If the cucumber is firm with no soft spots, it is most likely not old enough to be bad. Also, look for wrinkles. A surefire way to tell if a cucumber is bad is if there is visible mold on it. If you notice any of these things, opt for a different cucumber. 

Why is my Cucumber Bitter? 

Cucumbers can be intensely bitter for reasons other than picking it at the wrong time. Cucumber has a compound called cucurbitacin found in the plant’s leaves and stems. While it usually does not make its way into the cucumber vegetable, this compound will enter the cucumber if the plant is stressed.

Many things cause cucumber plants to be stressed. Hot, humid days with no water can increase the stress on a cucumber plant. Be sure to water your plant often and thoroughly. If the sun is very hot and causes the leaves to burn, try placing a shade over the plant during the hottest hours of the day for a few weeks. This will help prevent sun damage to the cucumber plant.

When you water cucumber plants, water at the bottom near the roots, spraying the entire plant, or using a sprinkler can cause the leaves to become wet. Wet leaves increase the chance of molds, mildews, and pests. You also want to water the roots deeply.

This will allow for a few days off from watering and help create a deep root system. Frequent shallow watering creates shallow root systems and can negatively affect plants.

Water droplets on leaves during the day can lead to sun damage and even burns to the plant. The leaves will become crispy and crumble when touched. Plants need leaves to perform photosynthesis for energy; if their leaves are damaged or removed, the plant will die. 

Final Thoughts

There are various reasons your cucumber could taste bad or even like fish. If the cucumber ever came in contact with a surface that had also come in contact with fish, the smell and juices could penetrate into the cucumber and cause it to taste bad.

Cucumbers are a finicky vegetable and can go bad rather quickly. You never know how long ago the cucumber was picked or if it was in the right stage of ripeness to be picked. The transportation time to the store is also unknown and could have come in contact with many other substances. 

Finally, cucurbitacin is a chemical inside the cucumber plant that causes it to taste bitter. It is normally found in the leaves and stems but can enter the cucumber vegetable if the plant is stressed.