Bitter vs. Astringent
Bitterness and astringency run in the same vein when we refer to them in the culinary world. While related, these two terms refer to different sensations.
Bitterness is one of the basic tastes we perceive with our taste buds. With is heavily basic pH level, baking soda is the purest taste of bitterness. On the opposite end of the scale is "sour" with its highly acidic pH factor. Oftentimes, raw veggies are considered "bitter"- especially in their outer peel/skin. Greens are known for their bitterness, as well.
Astringency, on the other hand, deals with our sense of touch. That "dried out" mouth feeling is what you feel when something is astringent. Think heavy red wine loaded with tannins.
Cucumbers, in particular are know for harboring both bitterness and astringency in their peels. In cooking, there are a few good options we suggest for for ridding the cucumber of these. 1) One method is simply to remove the peel from the cucumber. 2) Another way that will give you high marks on the chef scale is to salt the cucumber. The salt draws out liquid where the compounds that cause bitterness and astringency live. 3) One final method is to dress the cucumber, or any salad veggies for that matter, with an acidic dressing to balance out the taste. This is why most salad dressings have an acidic base.
Now enjoy preparing these recipes for a chance to test out your newly learned cucumber skills!