The Culprit of Bitter Zucchini

cucurbitacin_eOne of our favorite meals is sauteed zucchini, toasted pine nuts, fresh basil, coarsely chopped Uglyripes and pasta (and salt, pepper and olive oil of course). It's lightning-fast to prepare, is eaten slightly warm to room temperature and the leftovers make a killer frittata. However, recently our local market has been selling us zucchini that's pretty darn bitter.

I poked around the web looking for the cause. Apparently, a class of steroids called Cucurbitacins (depicted is Cucurbitacin E) are responsible for making eggplant, cucumbers and various varieties of squash bitter. Produce Pete (who, incidentally, should put up a blog) suggests selecting zucchini that are small and shiny. The larger the fruit the more likely they are to possess these bittering agents.

We here at Dave's Beer are contemplating soaking a split zucchini in brine (akin to the treatment some give Eggplant) to remedy the situation. Anyone ever try this? Leave your experience in the comments. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Bitterness in zucchini appears when they're old. Since it's not zucchini season, you're probably buying and eating zucchini that's been picked quite some time ago. When you're buying zucchini, pinch the ends - they should be as firm as firm can be. Those are fresh zucchini and will be sweet with nary a trace of bitterness around. I'm afraid you've just gotten a batch of stale zucchini...probably shipped in from far away.

Dave said...

Hi Luisa,
I suspect you're right about zucchini that's been picked long ago. Winter's just sad for produce around these parts. Thanks for the tip on trying to find good ones though, I'll try it.

Anonymous said...

Well, winter's pretty depressing over here in NYC for produce, too. I think I'll go nuts if I see another tuber on my plate for dinner. There's always cabbage, I guess. Sigh. ;)

Anonymous said...

Hey braised cabbage and egg noodles (with or without kielbasa) is a pretty killer winter dish. I love cabbage.

Anonymous said...

Hi I just stumbled across your website while doing a search on Cucurbitacins.

In the Carribean we use soak most bitter vegetables such as eggplant , zucchini in warm water and salt for a good hour .
After soaking u drain well, then dry off on papper towels to get rid of excess water. You are then, all set for cooking whether it be deepfrying , stews etc.
I find that deep frying such veges in grapeseed oil helps alot.

Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for that suggestion. I'll definitely use it next time moreso for eggplant I think.

Anonymous said...

I tried soaking zucchinis in salted water and it did not take the bitterness from them. I have bought big zucchinis that have not been bitter, so it is not the size. I always taste them before cooking them together because one is enough to spoil the whole dish.

Anonymous said...

Hey Andrea,

A short while after I wrote this post, I never tasted another bitter one. Must have been a seasonal short trend. I too have bought large and small ones for the past year with no problems at all. My soaking expts didn't do much either. Glad I don't have to worry about it for now. Thanks for visiting.

Anonymous said...

We picked fresh from our garden young 8 to 10 inch croked neck and zucchini cooked in olive oil today and thinly sliced . They were so bitter they were not edible :-( Anyone have any ideas ? Please email me if you can help
Thanks Scott