What’s your favorite way to enjoy a crisp green cucumber? Transform this delicious fruit by preparing it in different ways to take on a whole new flavor. Whether eaten raw on a salad, pickled, sautéed, baked or boiled, there are many ways to enjoy cucumbers.
Cucumbers belong to the Cucurbitaceae family which also includes squash, pumpkin and watermelon. Cucumbers grow best in hot and humid weather. So, grow them in the warm summer months, one to six weeks after the last frost. Since most varieties vine, cucumbers are great for vertical growing on a trellis. This makes them less susceptible to cold and frost and makes it so you can plant more in a small space. Cucumbers love ample amounts of water! Not surprising when you consider they are 95% water. The phrase “cool as a cucumber” is very appropriate.
There are three varieties of cucumber: slicing, pickling and burpless. Each variety has its own general characteristics, taste and appearance.
- Slicing cucumbers are typically longer in length than other varieties and have a thick, dark green skin which makes them resistant to damage during handling and shipping. Eat slicing cucumbers fresh in their unripe green form as the ripe yellow form is bitter and sour. A good example of a slicing cucumber would be the English cucumber.
- Pickling cucumbers are short and blocky with thin, bumpy skins and used primarily for pickling or processing. This term describes over a dozen varieties, best suited for the process of pickling or preserving in vinegar, water, salt, sugar and an herb spice solution. They are often smaller, ranging from 5-10 centimeters in length and remain crisp when preserved to create the smooth, crunchy texture we all yearn for in a salty pickle. Pickling this fruit not only supplies nutrients like vitamin C but also healthy bacteria that can prevent harmful microbes from growing in the intestines. Some examples include Gherkin, Cornichon, Kirby, County Fair 83 and the Bush cucumber.
- Burpless cucumbers have a thinner skin, are sweeter in taste and contain little or no cucurbitacin, a compound that causes bitterness and increases the likelihood of “burping” after eating. They are therefore easier for most people to digest. These cucumbers can grow as long as two feet and are usually seedless and found wrapped in plastic at the grocery store. A few great examples would include the Summer Dance Hybrid, Garden Sweet Burpless Hybrid and the Burpless Beauty.
All varieties of cucumbers boast numerous nutritional benefits, most notably their high water and fiber content which supports a healthy digestive system and assists in maintaining weight. The B vitamins found in cucumbers help ease feelings of anxiety and stress. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C and beta carotene provide immunity and support improved eye health. Fisetin, contained in cucumbers, is an anti-inflammatory compound shown to improve memory and protect nerve cells from age related decline. Polyphenols, called lignans as well as phytonutrients found in cucumbers help to lower risk of some types of cancer as well.
Recipe: German Cucumber Salad
Gurkensalat, or German cucumber salad, is a traditional German dish served as a cool, refreshing side to many entrees. It is a simple salad made with thinly sliced cucumbers and tossed in a creamy sour cream dressing. Salting the cucumbers helps to draw out excess moisture to keep a nice bite to the cucumbers as they bathe in the smooth dressing. Allowing the salad to sit overnight gives the onions a chance to soften and mellow out their flavor so it’s not overpowering.
German Cucumber Salad
- 2large cucumbers, sliced thin
- 1/2onion, sliced thin (optional)
- 1/2cupsour cream
- 2Tbspwhite sugar
- 2Tbspwhite vinegar
- 1tspdried dill
- 1tspdried parsley
- Spread cucumbers and onions on a platter, season with salt and let rest for 30 minutes. Squeeze excess moisture from cucumbers.
- Stir sour cream, sugar, vinegar, dill, and parsley together in a large bowl.
- Fold cucumber and onion slices into sour cream mixture.
- Refrigerate 8 hours to over night; garnish with paprika to serve.