Cucumbers

Cucumbers

These gourd relatives are crisp, cool, and juicy, but get only so-so marks for flavor and nutritional content. A slicing cucumber = table cucumber is usually served raw in salads, sandwiches, drinks, sushi, and hors d'oeuvres to add crunch, but they can also be cooked like zucchini. Pickling cucumbers are usually smaller than slicing cucumbers, and often have thick, warty skins. They're hard to find in supermarkets, but you can often find them during the summer months in farmers' markets.

How to buy: Select firm, unblemished cucumbers that are rounded at the tips and heavy for their size. Reject those with soft spots or withered ends. Within each variety, try to pick cucumbers that are relatively small and slender--they'll often have better flavor and fewer seeds.

Armenian cucumber

Cucumber_armenian This is hard to find, but one of the best-regarded slicing cucumbers. It's crisp, thin-skinned, and mild-flavored, and it has soft seeds. Like the English cucumber, it doesn't need to be peeled or seeded. It's not good for pickling.

English cucumber

Cucumber_longenglish This foot-long slicing cucumber is pricier and less flavorful than other varieties, but it has less conspicuous seeds, a thinner skin, and a plastic wrapper--instead of a wax coating--to improve shelf life. All of this saves preparation time, since there's no need to peel or seed the cucumber before slicing it. This is a good variety if you focused on looks--you can cut it into round, green trimmed slices.

Garden cucumber

Cucumber_american You can find these throughout the year at all but the most poorly stocked markets. The ones you find in supermarkets are usually waxed to hold in moisture and improve shelf-life--these should be peeled or at least scrubbed well before serving. Unwaxed cucumbers don't need to be peeled, but better cooks often do so since the peels tend to be thick and bitter. It's also a good idea to remove the seeds from these kinds of cucumbers; just cut them in half lengthwise and scrape them out. Select cukes that are firm, dark green, and rounded at the tips.

Japanese cucumber

Cuke_japanese These are just like English cucumbers, only with bumps. Like English cucumbers, they don't have to be peeled or seeded.

Kirby cucumber

Picklingcukes his short, versatile cucumber is used for both slicing and pickling. It's small, with bumpy yellow or green skin. Like the English cucumber, it has a thin skin and inconspicuous seeds.

Lemon cucumber

Cucumber_lemon This versatile cucumber is sweet and flavorful, and doesn't have much of the chemical that makes other cucumbers bitter and hard to digest. Though it's often served raw, it's also a good pickling cucumber.

Mediterranean cucumber

Cukes_mediterranean

Persian cucumber

Cucumber_persian This is very similar to a Japanese cucumber.