Cucumbers come in many shapes and sizes. They are also used for many different things, including pickles, salads, relish, fresh eating, smoothies, water, and more! With all of these uses, how do you pick the right one? The answer is to identify the type of cucumber that matches your needs. The main types include slicing, pickling, Asian, and Burpless. Although, burpless is a very subjective category. We’ll talk more about that below.
The traditional Slicing Cucumber type is commonly found in U.S. markets. These fruits are high-yielding, large, have thick skins, and may be covered in spines or bumps across their dark-green skins. The skin is edible; however, many people opt for peeling them before eating. Their thick skins make them a great candidate for field production and shipping as they can be handled without becoming damaged. They are usually harvested between 6 and 9 inches long for fresh eating, salads, sandwiches, refreshing water, or incorporate into a DIY soap recipes.
English Cucumbers - English cucumbers are commonly seen in grocery stores wrapped in plastic. This is because they have thin skins that can make shipping more difficult as they are not waxed. Their skins also make them a favorite for fresh eating without being peeled. They are long, semi-seedless, have dark green skin, crisp flesh, and a sweet flavor. Great in tzatziki or added to cocktails.
Pickling Cucumbers are popular for their use in home canning and fermenting (pickling). They are usually shorter than slicing varieties and have bumpy or warty skin. They can also be used for fresh eating or added to salads, but their size, texture, and flavor make them ideal for pickling.
European Pickling - These varieties are identified by their spines and small size making them ideally used for making cornichons (small cucumbers pickled whole with tarragon instead of dill) and baby gherkins (a specific variety of cucumbers). If you are wanting to make sweet pickles, these are a good match for you.
Mexican Sour Gherkin - Mexican Sour Gherkins aren’t actually cucumbers but are used as if they were. They are actually cucamelons, also called sandiita, or “little watermelon”. They are a grape-sized member of the gourd family. They are almost always pickled or eaten fresh. Enjoy these small and sweet flavored “Mighty Mouse Melons”.
Asian Cucumbers are known for their length reaching up to a foot long, similar to English cucumbers, but with more bumps. They are also slender with thin skin and less bitter than other varieties. Because these fruits grow long, trellising support is needed to prevent the cukes from curling. These are great varieties for fresh eating as they are very sweet and flavorful with minimal seeds.
Burpless Cucumbers are popular because of their preferred taste as a less bitter cucumber. Burpless refers to a lower cucurbitacin content within the cucumber. This is a natural compound that develops within the fruits and is associated with digestive issues (indigestion, bloating, burping, etc.) and a bitter taste. While this compound is not desirable for its taste, it is believed to have multiple health benefits.