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Foods -- Vegetables

Why does squash develop a strong bitter taste?

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Summer squash grown under stressful condition or infected with a virus may develop a strong bitter taste. The bitter compound is cucurbitacian, a poison if consumed in large enough quantities. The bitter taste will usually prevent consumption so poisonings are not common. To find the affected squash plant, pull a squash blossom from the plant and mash the blossom between your fingers and then touch your fingers to your tongue. The bitter taste will be easily recognizable when you reach the affected plant. Destroy the plant. The bitterness pervades the squash vegetable so it cannot be removed by peeling.

PREPARED BY: Angela M. Fraser, Ph.D., Associate Professor/Food Safety Specialist, and Carolyn J. Lackey, Ph.D., R.D., L.D.N., Professor/Food and Nutrition Specialist, North Carolina State University (August 2004)

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