Why you should milk your cucumbers

A TikTok video began making the rounds last week featuring a woman advising viewers on how to lessen the bitterness of cucumbers, and, well, her method may sound a little unique (via BuzzFeed). In the video, the woman claimed that she heard from a family member that "milking" a cucumber can result in a less bitter bite. Yes — "milking a cucumber."

All you have to do to milk your cucumber is to slice off the tip and rub it against the rest of the fruit, which will result in a white paste accumulating between the sliced-off tip and the cucumber. She then proceeds to demonstrate it in the video. The white paste is allegedly the bitter part of the fruit and once it's out, the cucumber will taste fresh, sweet, and without a trace of the astringent taste sometimes associated with cucumbers. 

But is this just another strange TikTok video or does this odd family secret have some sort of basis in science or food chemistry?

The science behind milking cucumbers

Cucumbers contain an organic compound called cucurbitacin, which contributes to their occasional bitter flavor (via Oregon State University). Some cukes have a higher concentration than others, which accounts for why some are bitter and others aren't. The higher concentration can be due to a lack of water or some sort of other stress during the growth period. 

Bitter cucumbers are reported more often during cold seasons, and it's more likely that a misshapen cucumber is going to be bitter than a perfectly shaped, aesthetically-pleasing one. A study from Oregon State University found that the bitter compound is likely to be found in higher concentrations at the stem end of the cucumber, which could account for why the milking method may actually have some basis in science. 

If you aren't keen on milking your cucumber, though, researchers suggest peeling the fruit instead, as most of the cucurbitacin is found in or just under the skin.