Ingredient Profile: Cucumber by VegFusion
Cucumber is popular around the world for its fresh, cooling properties. Fresh cucumber is combined with yoghurt in India called raita, mixed with yoghurt and garlic in Turkey and Greece as a dip called Cacık and Tzatziki respectively.
Although cucumbers can be purchased all year round, locally grown cucumbers are best from May to September in northern hemisphere and from October to March in Australia.
English or European cucumber (we call it telegraph cucumber in Australia), Lebanese cucumbers, Armenian cucumbers, Persian cucumbers, Japanese cucumbers and apple cucumbers are a few common varieties. As a general rule, the smaller Lebanese variety are crisper and have a better flavour than larger table ones.
What to look for
Small to medium diameter with a good, deep green colouring. A cucumber should be firm, those that are allowed to get too thick are often soft and seedy inside. A perfectly shaped cucumber is not necessarily a good cucumber. However, most commercially grown cucumbers are very straight –which can make them easier to use.
How to Store Cucumber
Store cucumber in the fridge. It needs to be wrapped well to maintain its moisture. They do not keep beyond one week, though.
They may be simply washed, sliced and eaten raw in salads and dips. Or you may peel them and even remove some of the seeds. Salting for 20-30 minutes removes the occasional bitter taste by drawing out the moisture through osmosis. They need to be rinsed after salting, though.
My Mum had a different way of preparing cucumbers which I think you might find interesting. Here how it goes:
Wash and peel the cucumber and cut the ends. Scratch it all the way down by using a fork. You should be forming four lines. Continue until you have formed lines all around the cucumber. Then slice. They will look like this:
Cucumbers may be steamed, sautéed, baked or deep-fried. To cook cucumber, peel and cut into thick slices. Add to a saucepan with about 2,5 cm (1 inch) boiling salted water. Cook until just tender which should be about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the cucumber.
Where to Use
Main ingredient in Raita in Indian cuisine, Cacık in Turkish cuisine, Tzatziki in Greek cuisine and Gazpacho (Spanish cold soup). Additionally, cucumbers can be used in salads, dips, pickles, sandwiches, crudités and finger food. More specifically:
Cucumber Cups with Cream Cheese and Fresh Dill
Cacık (vegan version)
Bulgarian Cucumber and Walnut Appetizer
Turkish Cucumber Salad with Dill and Crumbly Vegan Cheese
Na’ama’s Fattoush recipe from Jerusalem
Horiatiki Salad or Greek Salad or Peasant Salad or Horiatiki Salata
Cucumbers go particularly well with the following ingredients:
• Fresh dill
• Fresh mint
• Fresh flat-leaf parsley
• Spring onion (green onion)
• Chilli flakes
• Black pepper