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bitter taste in zuchini

  • k

Is there a way/secret in choosing zuchini? I sometimes find them to be just unpleasantly bitter. I tried salting them, it doesn't always work. But when it does, it tastes really good. Thoughts anyone?

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  1. Based on what I've read, I try to buy smaller ones.

    1. I read somewhere that the larger ones have a bitter taste from their skin due to them being in hotter temps longer while growing & they release some kind of mild toxin. Has anyone else heard this?
      I find in my experience that the larger ones are sometimes more bitter. Scrub the heck out of them..maybe it was the wax they sometimes put on them to give it a shine.
      I stick to the smaller ones myself.

      1. Buying smaller veggies will help, but my gram taught me to cut off both ends of the veg and rub them together (the cut ends) and toss them. More of habit than anything, but look for smaller ones. Or go to the farmer's market for the freshest.

        2 Replies
        1. re: lrostron

          e.v.o .lemon or lime,herbs like oregano ,cilantro etc capers and (GOOD)olives for sure, late summer large zucca's cooked with wine vinegar like in a caponata ........

          1. re: lrostron

            Hey, my Mum taught us to do that with cucumbers & other gourds too. It's to help "pull out the bitter sap". Is it an old wives tale? Not sure.

          2. My experience is the opposite. I usually find the smaller zucchini bitterer than the larger ones. In any case, I salt them if I don't want the bitterness. I halve them lengthwise and then crosshatch them about 1/4" deep, sometimes on both sides, before I salt them. This works great for grilled zucchini. If I am going to steam them, I just sprinkle some salt between the layers of sliced or roll-cut zucchini as I am layering them in the steamer. This also works.

            1. Frankly the Italian Zucchini is simply an inferior variety that has no business being in supermarket. Calabacitas / Mexican Zucchini / Courgettes / White Zucchini is such a superior tasting product that it is rarely ever bitter (unless its wilted & old)... I can't understand how it hasn't completely come to dominate the U.S. market.


              11 Replies
              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                that's not my experience. i find the gray zucchini (mexican, middle-eastern, whatever) to have a firmer texture and be better for soups, etc., but i prefer the flavor of the dark green zucchini. that said, when they get old (not big, but too long off the vine), the bitter flavor does come out more.

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  I like to use these young grey squashes in this zucchini carpaccio recipe
                  Even with these I've prefer to buy them small, and taste a slice to check for bitterness before committing them to a dish.

                  1. re: paulj

                    Do you ever see the perfectly round ones? Those are always relatively sweet... and have many cool uses.

                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                      No, I've only seen the teardrop ones.

                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                        There's a variety called "Eight Ball" that is perfectly round and the size of billiard balls. Very, very delicious.

                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                          the round ones are cool. there's an old variety called ronde de nice, and the modern 8-ball. technically, though they look like round zucchinis, they are classed as "summer pumpkins". whatever, they are perfect for stuffing and baking.

                          1. re: FED

                            The Ronde de Nice is close to the round calabacitas of Mexico. BTW, I just wanted to clarify that Grey Zucchini is a slightly different cultivar than the Calabacitas / White Zucchini / Courgettes I was talking about. The Grey is derived from this more ancient cultivar... but it was bred to hardy, survive long trips etc..., I guess Calabacitas are really only available in California, Texas & other places with large Mexican communities.

                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                              i think we're talking about the same thing ... it's a pale zucchini. Incidentally, weird little bit of info: zucchini is actually a modern vegetable. the first written mention of it wasn't until the early 1900s. before, there was a squash called cocozelle, which resembled it a lot, and a squash that was called generally "vegetable marrow", which is more like the white/gray zucchinis.

                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                the rounded, slighly oblong light green/grey squash in California/Texas hispanic markets are Tatume or Tatuma. If you google them, you can find sources for seed.

                        2. re: Eat_Nopal

                          Is the picture of calabacitas? what do you mean by Italian zucchini? dark green and smooth? Here in Rome we have zucchine romanesche, which look something like your picture but with pronounced ridges, like a fluted column. They are firm, meaty, full of flavor and contain very little water. The color is sort of variegated and varies from very light green to medium light green. The "regular" kind, the dark smooth ones, contain a lot of water and get horrible and full of huge seeds when they get too big.

                          1. re: mbfant

                            The latter variety is what is sold here in the states as "Italian Zucchini"... I agree they are terrible and have no place in the market!

                        3. They get more bitter as they get older. The larger ones will be older so try to buy smaller ones. Of course, it's hard to tell with supermarket zucchini just how long they've been away from the fields.
                          Italian friends swear that garlic should never be used with zucchini (or other squash family, such as eggplant) which flies in the face of everything that I had ever done. If there is any chance that it will be bitter, the garlic guarantees that it will be.
                          I trusted them and stopped using garlic. I've never missed it and have rarely had a bitter zucchini, squash, or eggplant dish since.
                          I know that I'll get soundly flamed for this so I'll just get the Nomex out now.

                          1. Bitterness in squash family plants (cukes/zukes) is usually due to environmental factors during growth.

                            Low soil temps, high soil temps, lack of adequate moisture level in soil, lack of appropriate nutrients etc., can create a compound within the vegetable called curcurbitin. These fruits are suitable for consumption if not unpleasantly bitter.

                            Rarely, a culitvated squash variety will cross with a WILD sqaush to produce fruits which contain Curcurbitin E. The fruits are intensly bitter, and not suitable for consumption. Severe gastric distress may follow.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: toodie jane

                              thanks Jane, that's really good to know! I knew about environmental factors and cukes (burpiness), but hadn't connected it to other cucurbits.

                              as for cures, I don't soak in salt water, but I do salt and set aside 30 minutes or so (rinse and then pat dry). this seems to work really well. and for zukes that aren't overly bitter, this brings out a nice nutty flavor without cooking. try making them into a salad with toasted pine nuts and mint.

                            2. try a short soak in salt water

                              1. You're taking the seeds out right? I always quarter them lengthwise, then run my knife the down each to remove the seeds. Then slice them on the bias and saute in a very hot pan with olive oil, garlic, red chili flakes and plenty of salt.

                                1. I have found that the bitterness in zucchini has more to do with the soil in which they are grown and the particular variety than which country they come from or the size. Zucchini grown in soil ammended only with kitchen compost, and composted manure (at least 3 years) seem to be much sweeter than commercially grown plants. But even there, it's not always so. Actually I can't remember the last time I tasted a bitter zucchini, and during the summer I buy them each week, now that I not growing my own.

                                  And as for not using garlic, I think that's just a choice. My favorite way of cooking zucchini is to slice them the long way, marinate them in EVOO & minced garlic for a half hour or so then grill, or roast in the oven, or fry on the stove top....add S & P and maybe basil chiffonade.

                                  1. Buy small has been my experience too. And this doesn't answer the question of why or how to get rid of the bitterness if it's already there, but I've found that farmers' market zucchini are never bitter.

                                    1. See what "harlick4" states in his reply here in this thread.

                                      Look --> http://www.chowhound.com/topics/277264

                                      1. On one of my Julia videos, she shreds it and has you squezze all the water out. Sautee w//salt pepper and the obligatory butter and its almost like honey when it carmelizes.

                                        1. hmmm, I've never experience bitter zucchini before and this is of all shapes and sizes. (Well the really large immediately get peeled, shredded and then frozen for baking later, something my mom taught me. Don't think I'd want to grilled those puppies)

                                          I always cut them up and brush with olive oil, sprinkle with S&P and then grill (in the winter I add the cheese beforehand and bake until soft and then cheese is golden). I had them tonight. One green and one yellow. Got them at the farmer's market (and they were about the size of a medium cucumber). So good

                                          Are you talking when eating them raw?