A lesson in cucumber voodoo

Published 10:36 am Thursday, September 8, 2011

They say you learn something new each day.

On Tuesday, my daily revelation was that apparently not everyone prepares a cucumber the way my family does.

It all began while I was having lunch with two co-workers at a local eatery. We all had ordered salads, which means we all got to savor in the bitter cucumbers included on that salad. The taste was enough to make you pucker grimace and sour your stomach all at the same time.

After tasting the astringent vegetable is when I mention it tasted as if the “bitterness had not been taken out.”

Of course, that incited some looks to which I had to explain my comments.

My mom has done it for years. Grandma did, too. I suppose you could call it “cucumber voodoo.”

Every one who has ever grown a garden knows the end of the growing season tends to yield cucumbers that are not as tasty as the ones from earlier in the season. Late season cukes tend to be bitter, almost sour tasting.

So, in steps, the “cucumber voodoo” calls for the cucumber to be prepared a certain way.

For my family, it means slicing off the top of the cucumber (the end of the vegetable that grew closest to the vine). You then take the cut piece and rub it in a circular motion on the cucumber. The action results in a white foam (the bitterness) that collects on the sides of the vegetable. Some say you should repeat the same action on the other end of the cucumber, but my mom swears by the vine side.  After wiping the foam off, prepare the cucumber as usual.

After some research, I found the method is supposedly an old wives’ tale that doesn’t have much proof behind it. Different palates have tasted pleasant tasting cucumbers using the “voodoo” method and others prepared the typical way.

I told my mom what I found, but she called it “blarney” in a minute.

“It works!” she declared, referencing all those late-season cucumbers it worked on.

I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve come to swear by this method as well. It’s the “normal” way of preparing a cucumber for me and I’ve never tasted a bitter cuke that has come from my mom’s kitchen. 

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: amanda.vanderbroek@r-cnews.com or call (252) 332-7209.