Cucumbers is an edible fruit that is part of the cucurbit, or gourd, family of vegetables. This family also includes watermelons, zucchini, and pumpkins. Like other members of the cucurbit family, cucumbers come in many shapes, sizes and colors. They are most often found as medium or long dark green fruit but sometimes other varieties are sold that might be white and egg shaped, long and thing, orange and thick, and everything in between. They can be sold very young and tender, mature and firm, and are even considered a delicacy in some cultures when overripe and soft. Cucumbers are eaten across many different cultures which is reflected in the many shapes and colors available.
Cucumbers are rich in potassium and dietary fiber and a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, folate (folic acid), phosphorus, and magnesium. Cucumbers have a mild, refreshing taste and a high water content. They can help relieve dehydration and are pleasant to eat in hot weather.
Buying & Storing
When buying cucumbers, choose fruit that is bright and free of brown or soft spots. Fruit should have a fresh, clean, scent without any mildewy or rotten smells. Cucumbers may be waxed, which makes them look shiny, however it is ok if they do not have a shiny skin and are unwaxed. Most types of cucumbers should feel firm, however there are varieties sold overripe and very soft. Cucumbers should never be wrinkled or appear desiccated.
Cucumbers should be washed and gently dried after purchase. You can store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and they should last about a week. Wrapping cucumbers in a paper or cloth towel before putting them into the bag to store in the refrigerator can help them stay crisp a little longer. It is usually not necessary to peel a cucumber or remove the seeds if you plan to eat it raw. If the cucumber skin has been waxed (to make it look shiny) or if you plan to cook the cucumber, you can remove the skin with a vegetable peeler or sharp knife. Some large cucumbers can have hard seeds. You can remove them by cutting the cucumber in half lengthwise and scraping out the seed-filled center with a spoon.
Raw – Slice, mix with other veggies, and try different dressings to create cucumber-based salads; cube and eat as a fresh accompaniment to sushi or grilled salmon; or slice and layer with mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper on bread.
Drinks & Cocktails – Peel, core, and puree in a food processor or blender. Add lime juice or melon for a delicious margarita base or experiment with honey, citrus and fruit additions to make refreshing summer smoothies.
Pickled – Trim ends of whole cucumbers or cut into thick slices or spears. Stuff sterile mason jar with cucumbers and pickling additions (try garlic, onion, red pepper, and dill flowers for traditional dill pickles). Fill jar with boiling pickling solution (vinegar, water, salt, and spices like coriander and black pepper). Let cool. Cover and store in the refrigerator.
Sauce – Drain excess liquid from grated cucumber and mix with lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt, and chopped herbs (try mint or dill). Serve immediately or cover and store in the refrigerator.
Canned – Pickled cucumbers can be shelf stable after water bath canning following an approved recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Cucumber pickles are usually made using cold packing techniques.