Cool down any hot day with these different varieties of cucumber.
Synonymous with being cool, cucumbers are one of the most refreshing summer fruits. While they originated in Southeast Asia, you can find cucumbers in many cuisines all across the globe. They’re delicious pickled of course, but they’re also a versatile ingredient when used raw, where the fact that they’re over 95% water can be utilized to its full potential.
Like watermelon, cucumbers possess the unique characteristic of being both wet and crunchy. This texture not only makes them ideal for salads (both sweet and savory), but also as a cooling garnish to spicy dishes, or even a component of a well-balanced drink. Here, we will discuss how to find the best cucumbers, some of the varieties you might find, and what they’re best used for.
You can typically find cucumbers year-round, but their peak season is May to August, which incidentally, in many parts of the world, is when you need their thirst-quenching properties the most. While you may only be able to find a few types of cucumbers at your local supermarket, if you have access to a farmer’s market, you’ll likely be greeted with a large selection.
To get the best crunch, you want your cucumbers to be as fresh as possible. Look for ones that are firm to the touch, brightly colored, and free of dents. Discoloration (often but not always yellow depending on the cucumber) can be an indication that they’re bruised or overly ripe, and likely will go bad quickly.
Next time you’re shopping for cucumbers, look for one of these eight varieties below, and try something new. While they have many different uses, try each cucumber with a sprinkle of salt to experience their subtle flavors.1. English/Seedless Cucumbers
Also sometimes referred to as “hothouse cucumbers”, English cucumbers can be found at most grocery stores no matter the season. They’re long with thin, dark green skin and an extremely mild taste. They’re especially nice muddled into a cocktail.2. Garden Cucumbers
This thick-skinned variety of cucumbers is the most common in grocery stores in North America, where they’re often coated in wax. Because of this, as well as their bitter skin, you’ll want to peel these and de-seed them too before chopping them into salads.3. Persian Cucumbers
Thin and elegantly curved, Persian cucumbers are very visually similar to English one, though they can be longer or shorter. Similarly, they have very thin skins and a mild taste. Their crunch makes them great for dipping or adding to a flavorful salad.4. Gherkins
These cucumbers might look strange when they’re fresh, as you may be more familiar with them as pickles. Gherkins are small, sometimes just a few inches long, with bumpy skin. Used to make the classic French cornichons, they easily fit in a jar and are a good addition to a charcuterie board.5. Lemon Cucumbers
You’ll likely only find these unique cucumbers at a farmer’s market. Their shape with slightly bumpy yellow and white skin does resemble a lemon, but their flavor is sweet and mild. Add them to a salad for a bright burst of color.6. Kirby Cucumbers
While gherkins are usually used for sweet pickles, kirby cucumbers lend themselves well to the savory variety. These short, bumpy cucumbers retain their bite, even when pickled, making them a good choice for both lacto-fermented and quick pickles.7. Armenian Cucumbers
Long with wrinkled skin that’s both light and yellowish green, Armenian cucumbers are another type you’re likely to find at the farmer’s market. Their crisp texture blends well with cooling dips.8. Japanese Cucumbers
Long and thin, Japanese cucumbers have dark green skin and small seeds. Their flavor is mild and similar to that of some melons. Because of this, they’re good to marinate and serve in salads like sunomono.
Now that you know all about cucumbers, try your hand at pickling some. Kirby cucumbers are the preferred pick of Phoebe Raileanu from Austin’s Casper Fermentables and she uses them two different ways in this video. All you need is some fresh cucumbers, mason jars, and a Saucepan for the variation that uses a hot brine. Pickles keep for several months and you’re sure to find many uses for them long after cucumber season has passed.