When most people think of cucumbers, they probably think of the dark green, waxy oblong English cucumbers that are so ubiquitous at American supermarkets. But there's more than one kind of cucumber out there — from yellow to green, and twisty to round!
Cucumbers originated in India. They were cultivated by the early Indians, the Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans. Technically and botanically a fruit, they are marketed and consumed as a vegetable — just like eggplant and tomatoes. Cucumbers are commonly eaten raw in salads or with dips, but they can be cooked in curries, pickled, prepared in marinated salads, made into chutneys, and used in gazpacho.
• Lemon cucumbers are round, tennis ball-sized, and range in color from pale yellow to a yellowish-green. Lemon cukes are a heritage variety and taste especially sweet. These are great as snacks and in salads.
• Armenian cucumbers are pale green with skins that have a rough texture, are thin, and wax-free. These cucumbers have lengthwise ridges running through them. Armenian cucumbers can be very long, but they tend to twist and curl into crazy shapes. Their seeds are usually very small and almost unnoticeable, and this cucumber is "burpless." Although they look and taste very much like a cucumber, Armenian cucumbers are actually melons. Armenian cucumbers are excellent in salads and sandwiches, and can be pickled.
• Slicing cucumbers are the common waxy cucumbers we can get in the produce section of our local supermarket. The thick skins are usually peeled off as they give some people gas. Used in salads, raw vegetable plates, and sandwiches.
• Japanese cucumbers are smaller and thinner than average cucumbers, dark green in color, with thick, spiky skins. These are traditionally used in maki sushi and Japanese pickles.
• Persian cucumbers are small seedless cucumbers perfect for snacking as they are finger-sized. Their skins are thin and burpless, and do not require peeling. They are also good when pickled.
• Pickling cucumbers - these short, fat cucumbers have less seeds than most cucumbers, and thin skins streaked with various shades of green. Sometimes they have nubby bumps alongside their bodies. These are the traditional cukes used for making dill pickles.
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(Images: Kathryn Hill)