Cucumbers are part of the gourd family, with fruit developing continually along a vine on the ground or supported by a trellis system. They come in a vast array of types, colours and tastes. Some even have small stiff hairs called spines.
There are 3 main categories, these being slicer, burpless and pickling. The more common types today are the green slicer, the mini (Lebanese type) and the continental (long or telegraph).
Being 96% water, cucumbers are the ideal spring and summer addition to salads, sandwiches and snacking plates because of their ability to rehydrate and are packed with nutrients.
Cucumbers are found in nearly all cultures around the globe, with just as many uses - for soups and stews, picking, but most are used fresh in salads or as a snack.
How to prepare
Give a good wash over then trim off the ends of the cucumber.
The fruit can then used with or without the skin, sliced, diced, grated, peeled into ribbons or eaten whole.
Each fruit type has it's own characteristics, some more crunchy than others, some more tender and juicy, and with seeds they're edible but some choose to remove them.
Buyer's and storage guide
Look for fruit that is clean, firm and of good uniform colour with no signs of bruising or physical damage. Usually cucumbers are sold loose, and typically the continental types have a plastic wrap covering each fruit to retain mositure.
Cucumbers should be stored in a cool and dry location. Excess moisture will lead to rotten fruit. If necessary to store in the refrigerator, keep loose and not in plastic bags, in the crisper section with the vent open. Fruit should stay fresh for 5-7 days and try to use a whole fruit at once rather than store any unused portions.
- A welcome addition to any salad. try them sliced, halved or diced with tomato, onion, olives and chunks of feta - a greek classic
- Cut into chunky strips to use as finger food, serve together with slices of celery and carrot as snacks for kids
- Grated or diced and mixed through with yoghurt, some garlic, lemon juice and seasoning in sauces and dips - again the greek classic tzatziki
- An Indian accompaniment raita, with yoghurt, cumin, coriander, mint, and other herbs and spices
- Slices on toast, with cheese, ham, egg and tomato, or thinly sliced on fresh bread just like the typical 'British' cucumber sandwich!