Another Cause of Soft Pickles

cuke beetle scars on Agnes

Cucumber beetle scars on Agnes cucumbers

I threw out half of my first crock of brined cucumbers this year, because the cucumbers were strangely soft. Much more upsetting than the loss was the fact that I couldn’t explain it. I am supposed to understand such things!

Now I’ve figured it out. The spotted cucumber beetles have been more numerous than ever this summer. For a week or two, stepping into the vegetable garden was like entering a bee swarm, except that I could swat the yellow devils with impunity. Early in the season, many cucumbers were scarred from the beetles’ bites. These scars looked like scars, not open wounds, not rotten spots. I’d seen them many times before, though never in such quantity. As usual, I ignored the scars as I filled the first crock.

A cucumber beetle scar on another variety

A cucumber beetle scar on another variety

The most scarred cucumbers, it turned out, were of the Agnes variety. In fact, few other cucumbers had any scarring at all. Nearly all the cucumbers I ended up throwing out were Agnes. Their skins rubbed off at the scar sites. When I’d press on a scar, the soft flesh below would spurt out. Where a scar had touched the smooth skin of a neighboring cucumber in the crock, the second cucumber sometimes suffered a bit of softening, too.

Agnes, developed in Holland, is always bitter-free, so I doubt that the bitter-loving beetles are especially attracted by its flavor. I suspect that they like this variety, or at least can most easily injure it, because its skin is especially thin.

I’m still pickling Agnes cucumbers, but I’m taking care to cut away every bit of beetle damage. And I’ll do that in the future no matter what cucumber variety I’m pickling.

About Linda Ziedrich

I grow, cook, preserve, and write about food in Oregon's Willamette Valley.
This entry was posted in Fermented foods, Pickles, Preserving science, Vegetables and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Another Cause of Soft Pickles

  1. Interesting. I would like to know what causes this, as well.

  2. Sheila says:

    The cucumber beetles have been out this year, I saw them early but not lately. The squash bugs have been scarring the zucchini like that though. Haven’t seen any soft spots, it seems to be only skin deep.

  3. Amy says:

    OH, all that hard work! Thank you for sharing so we can all learn. I would have ignored the scars, too.

  4. Becky says:

    This was my first year fermenting and I had to toss the bunch – now I know why. Thanks!

  5. During some years we get this, too. And even if there is no beetle damage, the pickles may still turn out to be mushy. We blame it on the weather and, hence, how the crops turn out.

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