With Nearly 100 varieties available, I doubt many people are caught standing in the grocery store’s produce section questioning the existence of the cucumber. In the realm of the gardener, there is still not a massive scope of what is really out there. Most gardeners mentally divide cucumbers into three categories: salad cukes, pickling cukes, and burpless cukes. While this is effective it’s far from being the whole picture.
So, let’s dive right in and explore the vast existence of the cuke.
Also known as seedless, burpless, greenhouse, or European cucumbers. These varieties are long and slender with a slight sweetness and firm texture encased in a thin dark green skin. They offer a great crunch and seeds that are barely there. The skin is thin and not bitter so there is no need to peel, so you will get more vitamins and fiber.
Persian cucumbers are a lot like their English family members except for size. The English cucumbers can exceed 12 inches in length while the Persian cucumber generally won’t exceed half of that. They are also thin-skinned and sweet with tiny seeds that make them easy to digest. These tiny powerhouses are perfect for salads or even pickling. Often you will see these in the produce section of the grocery store in packages of 6 or 8. It is my personal opinion that these are definitely the way to go. I love that the size is perfect for slicing into a salad without peeling, de-seeding, or cutting it into smaller pieces. This really cuts down on prep time!
Smooth-skinned and dark green these are sometimes referred to as salad cucumbers. These will have much thicker skins that can be quite bitter. So peeling is recommended. The seeds in a garden cuke are also much bigger and may cause digestive upset for some people. Though most of these have a somewhat softer texture than the other varieties, they have a pleasant taste and are quite refreshing on a hot summer day. You can pickle them. However, the texture after pickling tends to be very soft.
These are shorter and thicker than the other varieties we have covered and often have small spines or burs that make them kind of prickly. The skin is somewhat variegated and the texture is crisp and mild. There is no need to peel these before making pickles as the little spines will wash off with little effort. They will generally keep a good crisp texture and absorb the flavor from your brine very well. You can also enjoy these in every other way that you usually use cucumbers. Of all the varieties, these are the most versatile in my opinion.
There are many specialty varieties such as white cucumbers and lemon cucumbers. These are more of a novelty and offer no special traits beyond their appearance that would make them superior. The taste is not so different and these too can be used for salads and other dishes that you may prepare.
Contrary to the name, a cucamelon is not a cross between a melon and a cucumber. Though it is a distant cousin of the cucumber. The flavor is much like that of a cucumber with a hint of sour and they look like tiny watermelons. They can be pickled, cut up for salads, or even used in salsa. However, they can’t be counted as a cuke. It will need to be trellised unless you have a huge space for it. Trellising also makes them easier to pick and find among the leaves
Have you ever gone to the grocery store and purchased a few cucumbers and threw them in the drawer in your refrigerator only to find slimy versions of the same cucumbers in their place 3 days later? Well, let me help you out with this problem. Wash your cucumbers as soon as you get them. Dry them completely. wrap them individually with dry paper towels and put them into a bag. Do not close the bag or seal it. Air will need to escape to prevent the build-up of moisture. DO NOT store them near apples, grapes, or bananas, as the gases that they produce will make your cucumbers ripen and rot at hyper speed.
So, no matter what you are wanting to do with your cucumbers, you will find a variety that is well-suited I’m sure. The best thing is, cucumbers are very low calorie and very high in water content. This will help you slim down and stay hydrated. That’s a pretty good deal if you ask me. Refreshing cucumber and mint-infused water for a hot summer day, mmm mmm, can’t ask for anything more refreshing. So now that you have a little more information about cucumbers, you can make informed decisions. If you would like to plant some novelty varieties to test the waters and see which ones you prefer, it is almost a guarantee that it will be a conversation starter if nothing else.