Why You Can Probably Stop Milking Your Cucumbers

Like a less sugary watermelon, cucumbers can be an incredibly refreshing snack. Made of 95% water (via MasterClass), crunching into a fresh garden cuke almost always guarantees mildly sweet flavors — the key word being almost. Unfortunately, sometimes the cylindrical veggie can taste mouth-puckeringly bitter. To remedy this sensation, many have adopted the practice of "milking." But does this technique actually remove sourness or is it just a placebo?

Depending on the cultivar, cucumbers can have varying degrees of bitterness. While in some cases, this level of astringency has led to food poisoning, Reader's Digest explains that the Hothouse and Kirby varieties piled high on display at the market aren't likely to do harm. But while they're still edible, an unpleasant flavor won't make for a super enjoyable tasting experience. Luckily, there's an unlikely method that promises to sweeten the veggie through a process called milking.

According to Taste of Home, astringency is removed by slicing the ends of a cuke and rubbing them together in a circular motion to draw out an acrid, white (almost milky-looking) substance. But this extra step might not actually be worth the trouble as milking has just been proven to be an old wive's tale.

Only growing conditions can sweeten cukes

All vegetables belonging to the cucurbitaceae family can give off the sensation of bitterness. Mainly found in a cucumber's leaves, stems, and roots, Iowa State University explains that tart compounds called cucurbitacins B and C can also spread into the fruit's flesh and skins under extremely hot, dry growing conditions, resulting in a less than sweet cuke.

But even under the proper growing conditions, immature fruit can contain higher concentrations of cucurbitacins that tend to decrease as a cucumber ripens, reports The Takeout. That said, a ripe cucumber will always taste less bitter no matter if it's milked — you heard that correctly. So leave the milking process with cows because this technique only creates a placebo effect.

While you can still rub the ends of your cukes, given that the technique won't transform taste, it's best to instead choose your cucumbers wisely. Oregon State recommends shopping for cucumbers when they're in season (summer) and avoiding any misshapen ones as they tend to be less sweet.