Produce of the Week: Cucumbers

Cucumber

Even though long, dark green, smooth-skinned garden cucumbers are familiar vegetables in the produce sections of most groceries, cucumbers actually come in a wide variety of colors, sizes, shapes and textures. You’ll find white, yellow, and even orange-colored cucumbers, and they may be short, slightly oval, or even round in shape. Their skins can be smooth and thin, or thick and rough. In a technical sense, cucumbers are actually fruits, not vegetables. But we’ve become accustomed to thinking and referring to cucumbers as vegetables. Cucumbers have not received as much press as other vegetables in terms of health benefits, but this widely cultivated food provides us with a unique combination of nutrients.

Lemon Cucumbers: Don’t be fooled by this heirloom’s unusual shape-these bright yellow balls are excellent for salads and pickling. They have a clean, crisp taste and are never bitter. Lemon cucumber does not have a lemon taste, only color.  Round and yellow, this tennis ball-sized cucumber is a perfect serving for one or two people. It is believed to have been introduced to the US in the late 1800s. 

Armenian Cucumbers: The skin is very thin, light green, and bumpless. It has no bitterness and the fruit is almost always used without peeling. The Armenian cucumber grows approximately 30 to 36 inches long.  You can find them grown quite thick or long and lean.  They’re delicious for slicing and snacking or in salads and other dishes.

Persian Cucumbers:  Persian cucumbers, belong to the burpless category of cucumbers, named as such because these cucumbers are milder and contain little or no cucurbitacin, a compound that makes for a bitter taste and often causes the burping reflex after consumption.  They are usually small, have soft tiny seeds, thin skin that is easy to chew and a very mild almost sweet taste.  They tend to have a soft crunch which makes them ideal for pickling and slicing.

Storage: If you’ll use cucumbers within a few days, store at room temperature. Exposing cucumbers to temperatures below 50º F can hasten decay. If you must refrigerate cucumbers, wrap them in a dry paper towel and slip into a loosely closed plastic bag. Store them in a warmer part of the fridge and for best flavor and quality.

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