Live the “fresh is best” lifestyle. Although garden vegetables are considered cost-effective and rewarding, sometimes it has its expenses, especially when all your homegrown vegetables taste bitter. Horrible – we know. When you put all your valuable time and a lot of hard work into growing vegetables, and suddenly it doesn’t taste delightful.
Why do your garden vegetables taste bitter? Bitter tasting Vegetables are caused by unfavorable growing conditions, improper storage, or early harvest. Lack of water, nutrients, insect attacks, and extreme temperatures are the main cause of bitter vegetables.
We realized that plants, if not being taken care of properly, undergo stress very similar to humans. Here in this article, you will find:
- Why do vegetables develop a bitter taste?
- Factors are causing plant stress.
- How to fix bitter vegetables?
- How can you still use bitter vegetables?
- What is Toxic Squash Syndrome?
So without further ado, let’s get growing!
Table of Contents
What Impacts The Taste Of Vegetables?
People often ask us what affects the taste of vegetables? Why does our vegetable taste bitter? What are we overdoing? And usually, the issue lies when your vegetable plant is facing stress.
There is always a chemical present in plants that causes bitterness, but it starts when it translocates to the fruit. Stress happens because of under watering or uneven watering, or maybe a non-optimal environment. To minimize the problem, try to keep them watered and fertilized. Doing this will reduce plant stress and enhance fruit flavor.
Conversely, the stress in plants refers to external conditions affecting their productivity and growth. Besides, growing conditions affect food taste too. Knowing the bitterness of your vegetables at the right time will save your crops.
Below are the common reasons vegetables taste bitter.
Soil needs the right amount of nutrients and organic minerals for the incredible growth of vegetables. Lack of these two can cause bitterness in the vegetables. Most plants prefer soil rich in nutrients and consequently face less stress, grow more rapidly, and taste better.
Harvesting too early
Do not pluck your vegetables when they are still growing or young. Young Vegetables contain terpenoids in higher quantities and do not have enough sugar in them, which causes a savory or bitter taste. This is more true for some vegetables and less for others; make sure to check if your variety is usable for “baby”-harvest.
Otherwise, pick the vegetables when they start to ripe and harvest them once they reach half an inch in diameter. Most vegetables ripen within 60-70 days under favorable growing conditions.
After harvesting the vegetables, the next main task is storing them or preserving them separately and properly. You can use plastic bags for this, and before storing them in the refrigerator, cut away the green tops of the vegetables. Proper storage is essential to keep vegetables fresh and tasty.
Plants struggle with stress when there is no ideal condition present for them to grow. There are two kinds of stresses, one being abiotic and the second one is biotic. Keep reading to know the types of pressures that plants face.
Different Stress For Plants
Let’s discuss some most occurring plant stresses that push the plant to survive in even less ideal circumstances.
The plant needs to have the right uptake of nutrients, minerals, and water. But excess salt or sodium chloride in soil damage the plant and its roots. Higher sodium chloride potential in the soil makes it harder for the plant to undertake osmosis. Very salty soil can cause a buildup in the plants’ cells leading to Ion toxicity.
Planters should have full knowledge and information regarding chemicals they use for their plants, e.g., pesticides, herbicides or sprays, etc. If you use incorrect chemicals, you can cause damage to the plant’s roots and leaves.
Using chemicals at the right time and in the right amount is crucial for the plant’s health. Remember, different plants have different requirements, and it is not always necessary to give or spray the chemicals on all of them.
These chemicals can damage the plants, leave yellow or brown spots on them, cause stunted growth, or even kill them.
Water Stress/Insufficient Moisture
Plants cannot grow tasty and nutritious vegetables until they get the proper and right amount of water. Vegetables with a shallow root system are more prone to develop bitter-tasting fruits. Water is essential for healthy plant growth – and lack thereof can cause stress.
Drought Stress/Dry Conditions
It is essential to monitor the temperature when growing vegetables. High temperature (>80°F ) can easily cause your greens to developed a bitter taste. The optimal temperature is between 60-65°F – plants require a lot more water the warmer it gets.
Moreover, to protect the vegetables from excessive heat and dry conditions, soaking them in the water at least once a week is a great way to keep them hydrated. During prolonged drought periods, it’s necessary to increase the water your plants receive.
More importantly, don’t forget to cover the plants’ roots with mulch so that the soil’s temperature does not increase. Plus, when vegetables are ready for picking, cover them or store them as soon as possible.
Cold And Frost Damage
Have you ever seen that some plants have black stems, leaves, or discolored flowers? Plants exposed to cold weather or frost are prone to show these symptoms. Plants affected by cold temperatures during the early growing stages can cause the fruits to die or make them incredibly bitter.
Plants need sunlight, but excessive exposure to sunlight can damage or sunburn the leaves because of a lack of water.
Leaves and stems bring water from roots to the plant, and transpiration reduces water vapors’ temperature. This avoids damage to the plant parts and leaves. If the plant didn’t get enough water to maintain the cooling process, burns would form on the plants’ leaves.
How To Prevent Your Plant’s Stress
Every plant must get a good uptake of sunlight and water. This is only possible if each plant has some space to breathe. Furthermore, plants growing too close together will compete for sunlight. If the leaves of one plant start to block the light from reaching all the others, it’s time to give them a haircut. Pruning will allow the leaves to receive sunlight again.
All plants need sunlight, but not at the same time of day or for the same amount of time: Some prefer partial shade; other love to bask in full sun all day long. Therefore, it is necessary to look after your plants and see which one needs more sunlight and how many hours per day.
For a plant to grow well, you must fulfill all its demands. It includes the pH level of soil, the right amount of nutrients, water uptake. Soil should be organic, meaning it contains all minerals needed. Last but not least, the moisture level of the soil is also important.
Is There A Quick Fix For Bitter-tasting Vegetables
Just like humans, plants also need to eat healthy, especially when they are under stress. Try to add macronutrients and micronutrients in their dietary cycle. One of the nutrients that planters can use for the betterment of plant health is ample phosphorus.
Before using any nutrients or any other chemical, it is vital to know the plant’s growth-stage and requirements to avoid any further stress caused by applying the wrong fertilizer.
Create a Stress-free environment
Provide your plants with a healthy and happy environment where they can breathe and grow happily. Moreover, protect your plants from insects and weeds. Eliminate competition by removing weeds or heavy mulching.
Provide the plants with water and nutrients that they need to avoid cracking and damaging seeds (nutritional seed dressing).
Be Cautious: Herbicide can cause herbicide stress, so use it in limited quantities and with superb quality.
Get professional advice and regular checkups.
Suppose you think that your plants are not growing well and adequately or may be affected by some disease. You can take the advice from the agronomist.
Additionally, you can have appointments with professionals, and hopefully, they can fix the problem and explain the matter to you. Plus, regular checkups can help identify and prevent abiotic and biotic stress factors before becoming an issue.
How to fix bitter vegetable long-term
Get to the root of the issue.
A plant can not grow without having a robust root system as roots take all nutrients and water up to the plants and deal with stressful conditions.
Foliar nutrients and seed primers can build a healthy root system as they develop the IBA (Indole Butyric Acid). Also, a balanced microbiome is necessary for healthy soil and a robust root system.
New strategies to Avoid stress
Reducing Stree-factors long-term is a process and takes years to complete. Getting to know your local climate, establishing healthy soil, and optimizing growing factors is a lifelong lesson. Give yourself some time to make small mistakes and learn from them!
Ways to still use slightly bitter-tasting vegetables
You can still use bitter-tasting vegetables. But here’s the kicker: There are some foods/vegetables that are naturally bitter but have numerous benefits to our body. Stick around to know more.
Pairing the bitter greens with the right ingredient will mask the savory taste. Here are a few ways to tame the bitter greens.
- Add Acid
Add acids like lemon or vinegar will help cut the bitter taste and give a light contrasting flavor to your dish.
- Slow cooking
Consider bracing for sturdy bitter greens. Like acids, slow cooking also cuts the bitter taste and softens the tough leaves.
- Add strong flavor ingredients.
You can fight bitterness with flavors like sweet and spicy. Cooking the bitter greens with intense flavors such as garlic or roasted squash will temper the bitterness and balance the dish out.
- Use salt
You can combat the bitterness with salt, as salt is a friend of bitter veggies. Sprinkle some salt over bitter greens whether you are eating them raw or cooked.
Benefits of naturally bitter-tasting vegetables
Do you want to add some fresh green vegetables to your salad? If yes, try arugula, which keeps the body cool because of its peppery flavor, helps in bile production, protects the body from cancer, and acts as a detoxifying agent.
Suppose you want to add another veggie to your salad with arugula. Dandelion greens are the perfect ones to add. It has many benefits to the body, like relieving constipation, diarrhea, reduces inflammation, and cleanses the liver.
The exception: Cucurbitacins – back-crossing of squash
Do you enjoy eating cucumbers, melon, pumpkins, and squash? If yes, did you know: they all contain Cucurbitacin. E in small quantities. Large amounts of Cucurbitacin. E is poisonous and results in Toxic Squash Syndrome.
Toxic Squash syndrome
Pumpkins are classified as cucurbits, and cucurbits naturally develop Cucurbitacin to protect themselves from insects. But if the amount of Cucurbitacin is elevated, it will cause cucurbit poisoning, also known as Toxic Squash syndrome. It includes symptoms;
- Hair loss
- Abdominal pain
There are two reasons for this to happen: cross-pollination (back-crossing) or extreme stress that increases the cucurbitacins in these veggies.
Not all homegrown cucumbers and cucurbits are poisonous. On the contrary, wild cucumbers and other cucurbits have more concentration of Cucurbitacin than homegrown.
How can you identify the poison cucurbit? If it tastes bitter or nasty and does not smell good, then don’t eat it! Usually, you won’t be able to eat it – even if you wanted to. High Cucurbitacin has such a potent taste it’s impossible to ignore. Even a quarter of zucchini can ruin a whole large pot of food – speaking from experience.
We hope you found this guide useful and informative and found the exact answer to the questions as to why your vegetables taste bitter. It’s our absolute delight to put together all the information in one easy-to-find place!
Nevertheless, growing vegetable gardens at home is a stress-relieving and family-friendly activity. Sometimes veggies can be very needy of our attention and require some smooth touches, but there is nothing better than the feeling of harvesting your home-grown veggies