Everything You Need to Know About Cucumbers
In Ontario, we are able to buy cucumbers at the peak of perfection all year round. Sometimes they are grown in fields and sometimes they are grown in local greenhouses, but regardless of where they comes from, both the long, skinny English variety and the shorter, thicker field cucumbers are mild in flavour and absolutely thirst quenching.
The most common variety found in grocery stores are English cucumbers, which have a deep green colour and thin, slightly bumpy skin. The flesh is firm but juicy, and they are either seedless or contain small, edible seeds. These are usually wrapped in cling wrap to help them maintain moisture.
Field cucumbers are typically shorter and thicker than their English cousins, and also bare a much thicker skin. Sometimes at markets, you’ll find cucumbers that still have spiky spines. You can wash/lightly rub the spikes off before eating.
Mini seedless cucumbers can also be found at your local grocery store. As miniature versions of English cucumbers, they too share the thin skin of their larger-sized cousins, but have an even crunchier texture than their full-grown counterparts—making them a very popular snack option for kids.
How to Select and Store Cucumbers
When selecting cucumbers, look for long, firm cucumbers, which are dark green and feel heavy for their size. Avoid those that have soft spots, yellowing, blemishes, or can be easily bent in the middle.
In order to maintain their freshness, protect their colour and retain their natural moisture, seedless cucumbers are sealed in a plastic wrap. Keep the wrap on until ready to use. Both English and field cucumbers should be stored in a cool, dry place or in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator, where they will keep for up to 10 days.
Mini cucumbers are best kept refrigerated in their packaging. If you are storing leftover cucumber or cucumber that has already been cut, wrap it tightly before storing in the refrigerator and it should last for approximately five days.
How to Prepare Cucumbers
Important to Note: All cucumbers should be well washed before eating.
Field cucumbers have a thick, waxy exterior, which is great for preserving the cucumber. The skin is edible but if you prefer, it’s easy to remove with a vegetable peeler or paring knife.
Greenhouse cucumbers need not be peeled, and are seedless. However, some choose to scoop out the thinner, more watery membrane in the middle (where seeds once were) for recipes that call for removing extra moisture (like in sauces or dips). The skin contains most of the nutrients.
Mini seedless cucumbers need very little prep. Simply wash and enjoy as a crunchy snack. You can cut them into coins, or quarter them lengthwise, but they’re perfect for eating fresh as they are.
- To make decorative cucumber slices, run the ends of a fork down the length of a cucumber, removing just the skin. Do this around the entire cucumber. Then, when you slice the cucumber, it will have lovely scalloped edges.
- Instead of using pita or chips, use sliced cucumber coins as a crunchy snack or vessel for your favourite dips.
- Only wash cucumbers just before eating them. Excess moisture during storage will promote spoilage.
- Use a spiralizer, julienne cutter, or even a vegetable peeler to make cucumber ribbon and noodles. They make a great alternative to noodles for a cold noodle salad, and are refreshing no matter what time of year.
- You can crisp up cucumber slices by sprinkling them with a little salt and placing them in a colander for half an hour to drain. This will remove the excess water. Once done just rinse and pat dry.
Cucumbers Go Well With
Produce: arugula, avocado, beets, bell peppers, cabbage, capers, carrots, celery, chiles, citrus, eggplant, endive, fennel, grapes, jicama, lemon, lettuce, lime, mushrooms, olives, onion, orange, papaya, peas, radishes, salad greens, scallions, shallots, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, watercress, and watermelon
Herbs & Spices: basil cayenne, chervil, cilantro, cumin, dill, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, mint, mustard, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, tarragon, thyme, turmeric, and za’atar
Other: almonds, buttermilk, cheese (especially soft cheeses like cream cheese, goat cheese, and feta), cream, grains, olive oil, quinoa, and sesame
Popular cucumber flavour combinations to try include:
Cucumber + dill + salmon
Cucumber + dill + yogurt
Cucumber + feta + tomato + olive oil + red wine vinegar + oregano
Cucumber + sugar + rice vinegar
Cucumber + garlic + vinegar
Cucumber Serving Ideas
- Try adding cucumbers to a Caesar salad. Cucumbers are a great addition to many other salads as well.
- Stuff cucumbers with seafood for a yummy appetizer, or try pickling them to make…pickles.
- Cucumbers are great as a base for salads. They’re refreshing, tasty, and beautiful. Try this cucumber ribbon salad or a cucumber noodle salad as a light lunch.
- Cucumbers can act as a low-carb replacement for crackers. You can top with cheese, spreads, dips, and smoked meats.
- Cut cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop some of the seedy flesh out. It can now serve as a ‘boat’ for seafood, cheese, or any topping of your choice.
- Cucumbers are fantastic as a dip, too. Try them in cucumber salsa, guacamole, or tzatziki.
- You can cook cucumbers, too, like in this creamy cucumber soup.
- Top sliced cucumbers with cream cheese and dill mixed together and a small piece of smoked salmon for a delightful appetizer.
- Sliced cucumbers are a great addition to your water to add freshness.
- Surprisingly, cucumbers are also refreshing when chopped and sprinkled over nachos. They add a cooling, crunchy bite to a dish that’s laden with bold and heavy flavours.
According to the Canadian Nutrient File, nutritional value per 100 g of raw cucumber using the daily recommended intake from Health Canada: 16 calories, 20% of Vitamin K, 5% of magnesium, 5% of Vitamin C, 4% of potassium, and 3% of folate.