B's Cucumber Pages

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a cucumber a fruit or a vegetable?
Could you send me a recipe that's not on your web site?
Can I freeze my cucumbers or cucumber salads?
Does rubbing the end of a cucumber make it less bitter?
Why are cucumber slices good for facials?
Where can I buy cucumber essential oil?
Where can I buy cucumber seeds?
Please help me with my report on cucumbers.
What is the worlds record for largest cucumber?

Q: Is a cucumber a fruit or a vegetable?
A: It is technically a fruit. From a botanical perspective, a fruit is the mature ovary of a plant, such as an apple, melon, cucumber, or tomato. From the common, every day "grocery store perspective," we tend to use the word fruit with respect to fruits eaten fresh as desserts - apples, peaches, cherries, etc. - and not to items cooked or used in salads. So, cucumbers tend to be lumped in with vegetables because of the way they are used (cooked and in salads), but botanists will call them fruits because they develop from the reproductive structures of plants. From the Cornell Department of Horticulture.

Q: I'm looking for a recipe for a) my Great-Aunt Bertha's Cucumber sandwich, b) this fabulous cucumber soup I had in Chicago, c) an old recipe for cucumber salad I cut out of a magazine years ago but seem to have misplaced, d) some other recipe that is not on your page. Could you please send it to me?
A: All the recipes I have are posted. I'm not holding anything back, so I can't send anything to you. If you don't see what you're looking for, you can try posting to the newsgroup rec.food.recipes, or, for pickles, try rec.food.preserving.

There are as many recipes for cucumber salads and cucumber sandwiches as there are Great-Aunt Berthas who make them. They are not difficult, are very forgiving, and if you come up with something gross, cucumbers and vinegar are cheap so you can try again. You should experiment yourself to figure out what suits your taste or memory.

Cucumber Salads: Most cucumber salads have cucumbers in vinegar. You can add water to cut the acidity. Sugar and salt are common too, add to taste. Any herbs and seasonings you like can be added, including dill, basil, oregano, garlic, cilantro, rosemary, pepper, chives, chili powder, curry powder, worchestershire sauce, tabasco sauce, plum sauce, fish sauce, etc etc according to your taste. Just experiment to see what you like. Other vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, peppers, shallots, green onions, and jicama are also common additions. For a twist, try adding fruits such as watermelon, apple, orange, mango, or papaya. If you want your salad to be creamy, add yogurt, sour cream, or mayonnaise. Just mix to taste, but don't leave it in the fridge too long after adding the creamy ingredient.

Cucumber Sandwiches: The traditional English cucumber tea-sandwiches consist of sliced cucumber on white bread spread with butter, with the crusts cut off. Many variations substitute cream cheese for butter, try whichever one you like better. You can also add any herbs you like, try mixing them into the cream cheese. You can also add thin slices of smoked salmon, pickles, sandwich meat, or anything else your heart desires.

Q: Can I freeze cucumbers or cucumber salad?
A: I've heard back from some people who tried this, all with terrible results. The cucumbers turn limp and mushy, and dewater quite a bit. They should be enjoyed fresh.

Q: My grandmother used to cut the ends off the cucumber and rub them together to draw out the bitter juices. What's up with this?
A: It is an old wives' tale. Really. Try it with 100 cucumbers and not on another 100 if you don't believe me. Some cucumbers can be bitter, especially at the ends, and you might want to cut off the ends because of this. In particular, cut off the blossom end of fresh cucumbers, as the blossoms contain enzymes that are bitter and others that cause excessive softening of pickles.

You can draw out the bitterness in the rest of the cucumber by slicing, salting, and draining it before adding to a salad. This works on the principle of osmosis. The principle of bitterness spontaneously leaving the cucumber because you rubbed the end... well, it does no harm, so do it if you want.

Q: I read that putting cucumber slices on your eyes/using cucumber puree on your skin is a good facial. Why?
A:Cucumbers are common ingredients in a lot of facial creams, masks, cleansers, etc. Cucumbers have a long folk-medicine history of being used as an astringent, or something that tightens your pores. Astringents are good at soothing sunburns and acne and reducing the appearance of pores and oily skin. In addition, cucumbers are usually cold from the refrigerator, and so help to reduce swelling (like a cold compress) and are conveniently the perfect size to put over your eyes. You can find some recipes for cucumber masques here and here. Most preparations use cucumber in combination with another astringent like lemon juice or rose water, but you can just use cucumber puree on its own.

Q: I'm looking for cucumber extract to use in my facial lotion. Where can I find some?
A: I did a search for "cucumber essential oil" on Google, and here is a selection of web-based companies selling it: cucumber essential oil.

Q: Where can I buy cucumber seeds?
A: Again, try doing a web search for cucumber seeds.

Q: My cucumber plant is droopy/yellow/bitter/unhappy. What do I do?
A: I have no idea, since I don't grow cucumbers, I just eat them. My suggestion is to visit your local library and check out a book on home gardening, or try calling your local Cooperative Extension.

Q: I am doing a report about cucumbers and I want you to do my research for me. Please send me all your information and pictures, because my report is due tomorrow.
A: No. All the information I have is posted, and the reference books I used are fully cited, so you can go get them from your library. Might I suggest also to beware of the Web while doing research in general. Anyone can post anything, whether it is true or false, and you have no way to tell the difference. Your local library has encyclopedias, gardening books, and history books that will suit you much better. Also your librarian can almost certainly help you find other sources of information as well.

Q: What is the world's record for largest cucumber?
A: 59 lbs, in 1988 in Australia. Sorry to everyone who were saving their 5-lb backyard cucumbers, you'll just have to find a way to eat it all!

If your question still isn't answered after reading this FAQ, you can try to email me, bcohen@hawaii.edu.

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Last Modified: May 12, 2002