Belch No More With Burpless Cucumbers

You’ve probably noticed that cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) sometimes make you burp. This is due to the presence of cucurbitacin in the fruit, one of the bitterest substances known to humans. Cucurbitacin is present in wild cucumbers where it serves to protect the plant against predation, but at a reduced rate in cultivated cucumbers. However, in most garden-grown cucumbers, the amount of cucurbitacin will increase when the plant is suffering from heat and drought, giving the fruit a bitter and unpleasant taste … and also causing belching in sensitive individuals.

To help avoid this problem, always mulch the base of the plant to keep its roots cooler and be sure to water it so it never suffers from drought. Or you can plant burpless cucumbers. They have a genetic mutation that reduces or eliminates cucurbitacin in the fruit, making them less likely to cause belching, although the leaves still produce it.

Some entire classes of cucumber are burpless. English, Japanese, Lebanese and Persian cucumbers are all easily digested, as are Armenian cucumbers, also called yard-long cucumbers, which are actually a different species (C. melo flexuosus). However, there are plenty of good ol’ garden-variety slicing cucumbers that won’t make you burp … if you grow them with care.

You Choose!

‘Garden Sweet Burpless Hybrid’ is a typical burpless cucumber. Photo:

In this season when it’s time to buy vegetable seeds for the summer garden, here are some burpless varieties to look for.

‘Beit Alpha’
‘Big Burpless’
‘Burpless Beauty’
‘Burpless Bush’
‘Burpless Hybrid’
‘Burpless No. 26’ or  ‘Burpless #26’
‘Burpless Tasty Green’
‘Chelsea Prize’
‘Chinese Snake’
‘Cool Breeze’
‘County Fair’
‘Early Spring Burpless’
‘English Telegraph’
‘Garden Sweet Burpless Hybrid’
‘Green Knight’
‘Marketmore 80’
‘Orient Express’
‘Palace King’
‘Spring Burpless’
‘Suyo Long’
‘Sweet Burpless’
‘Sweet Slice’
‘Sweet Success’
‘Sweeter Yet’
‘Summer Dance’
‘Tasty Green’
‘Tendergreen’ (‘Tendergreen Burpless’)

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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