B's Cucumber Pages
From Cooking A to Z edited by Jane Horn. Santa Rosa:
The Cole Group, 1992.
The cucumber is a gourd of the same family as pumpkin, zucchini, and
other squashes. There are basically two types of cucumbers: pickling
varieties and slicing varieties. Pickling varieties, such as the gherkin,
the American dill, and the cornichon (small French pickle), are
relatively small. The gherkin and the cornichon are rarely more than
2 inches long, the American dill rarely more than 4 inches. All of the
varieties have dark green skin with knobby warts or spines.
Slicing cucumbers may be either outdoors varieties with seeds or
greenhouse varieties, such as the long, thin-skinned English cucumber,
which has few seeds. Outdoor varieties have a smooth, dark green
skin and are usually about 8 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide.
The skin is often waxed to prolong shelf life. greenhouse varieties,
such as the English cucumber, are about 12 to 15 inches long.
Other commercially available slicing cucumbers include the round,
pale lemon cucumber, which has a very mild flavor, and the Japanese
cucumber, a narrow, thin-skinned variety with few seeds.
Cucumbers have a crisp texture, a moist, cool flesh, and a mild flavor.
Pickling cucumbers are appreciated for their crisp, firm texture;
slicing varieties for their refreshing, juicy flavor.
Use: Pickling cucumbers are packed in brine for use as a relish.
Slicing cucumbers add crunchy texture and cool flavor to salads and
sandwiches; they may also be steamed or sauteed and eaten as a vegetable.
Cucumbers, hot or cold, have a particular affinity for fish and are often
used to garnish salmon dishes. In Japan, cooks use cucumbers in sushi
and cold salads, and in England, tea wouldn't be tea without cucumber
- Slicing cucumbers are available all year but peak
season is in the summer months. Most pickling cucumbers are sold
only during the summer months. Many of the greenhouse varieties
are wrapped in plastic to prevent dehydration.
- Choose firm cucumbers without soft spots. With the
exception of lemon cucumbers, they should have a solid green color
without signs of yellowing or puffiness.
- Keep cucumbers in refrigerator crisper for up to one week.
- Pickling cucumbers should be scrubbed to remove loose
spines. Greenhouse slicing cucumbers do not need to be peeledor
seeded. Outdoor varieties may be peeled and seeded, or not, as
desired. Waxed cucumbers, however, should be peeled. To seed a
cucumber, slice it in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds
with a small spoon.
Last Modified: August 28, 1997