How to Choose a Cucumber
Cucumbers come in more than fifty different varieties, from the long, thin English and Armenian cucumbers, to the tiny gherkins. There is even one variety that looks like a lemon. It is yellow, and rounded, just like a lemon! Most folks are familiar only with what they find in the grocery store. Usually people buy slicing cucumbers for salads and sandwiches, and to eat out of hand as a snack.
There are several things to look for when buying cucumbers to insure freshness, and taste, regardless of the variety of cucumber chosen. The first thing to look for is unblemished fruit that is a deep green, dull, uniform color. The cucumber should look fresh. Some varieties have creamy white mottling, but avoid cucumbers that are starting to yellow. Supermarket cucumbers are shiny because they are waxed. This wax is to replace the fruit’s natural wax, which is removed in processing, and to prevent bruising during shipping.
The wax can be removed, if desired, but it is FDA approved for human consumption. To remove the wax, soak the cucumbers in a basin of very warm water. This will soften the wax so it can be scrubbed off with a vegetable brush. If the skin is thick, or bitter, one can peel the cucumber before eating. English and Armenian cucumbers have thinner skins and fewer seeds, so peeling is usually not necessary. Because the wax helps to retain moisture, it is best not to peel them, or remove the wax, until it is time to eat them.
Next, check for firmness. A good cucumber is firm when pressed with the thumb, and should be firm all the way to the end. Avoid cucumbers that yield to thumb pressure. There should be no soft spots.
The final indicator of taste one should look for is size. Avoid overly large cucumbers because the seeds are often hard and unpalatable, and sometimes the flesh is woody. Smaller cucumbers tend to be sweeter and crisper. The seeds of smaller cucumbers are finer, making them a better choice for salads and sandwiches and for eating out of hand.
Once the cucumbers are home, store them in the crisper of the refrigerator. Cucumbers have a very high water content. It is best not store them with fruit, as fruit will cause the cucumber to yellow and deteriorate quickly. If not using the entire cucumber immediately, put some plastic wrap, or waxed paper secured with a rubber band, over the cut end. Store it in the refrigerator.
If one follows these guidelines in choosing a cucumber, one will enjoy deliciousness from the garden when used in any salad, sandwich, sliced, or eaten out of hand. The inside of a cucumber can be up to twenty degrees cooler than the air around it, making it truly a refreshing summer treat!