All About Cucumbers
Cucumbers are a summertime favourite. We always look forward to their arrival at the markets.
Throughout the winter, we usually buy them at the grocery store. But, the local farmer’s market ones are truly my favourite. Sure they don’t look as pretty as the grocery store versions, but they are way tastier.
Cucumbers belong to the same botanical family as melons (including watermelon and cantaloupe) and squashes (including summer squash, winter squash, zucchini and pumpkin).
They are usually classified under one of 2 categories:
- Slicing (usually larger with thicker skin)
- Pickling (usually smaller with thinner skin)
I have to confess though, I have been know to use them interchangeably.
Ok, so this is where things get interesting with cucumbers. There are lots of recommendations and debate. Yup, it is debated. Here’s the question: do cucumbers need to be stored in the fridge or on the counter? The answer is: it depends.
According the the University of California Davis, storing cucumbers in the fridge is not a good option. They did a lot of experimentation and found that cucumbers are prone to “chilling injury” which shortens their shelf life quite a bit. According to their research, cucumbers stored in the fridge will develop “water-soaked areas, pitting, and accelerated decay”.
This is important research, but life out of a controlled environment can make things more of a challenge. Here are our recommendations:
- There is no need to wash cucumbers before storing them. Brush off any excess dirt and check for bugs.
- Whole cucumbers last longer than sliced. Do not slice until you are ready to use them.
- Store cucumbers on the counter if the room temperature is under 30 °C (86 °F). A room that is too hot can make the cucumbers decay faster than the damage done due to chilling injury. The humidity level also places a part. If it is very hot and humid, the counter may not be the best spot to store cucumbers.
- If you need to store cucumbers in the fridge, place them in a plastic bag with a paper towel. Store them in the warmest part of the fridge (usually near the top), or in a humidity controlled drawer. Check the cucumbers daily for excess moisture.
- Cucumbers are sensitive to ethylene gas, which is released by some ripening fruits and vegetables. Don’t store cucumbers near melons, tomatoes or bananas.
It is important to know that cucumbers have quite a short shelf life. Many people assume they will last weeks or months. They are best if used 3 – 5 days after buying.
If you are planning on pickling cucumbers, do this as soon as possible. Using fresh, crisp cucumbers produces the best pickles. If you are not inclined to can pickles for longer storage, here is a great recipe for refrigerator pickles.
Freezing cucumbers is problematic, unless you freeze them in a brine (similar to pickling). These are usually called “freezer pickles”. See the technique here.
Other than freezer pickles:
- cucumbers can be pureed and frozen in ice cube trays.
- once frozen, store the cubes in freezer bags and use in smoothies. They can also be used as flavoured ice cubes in drinking water.
- sliced cucumbers do not freeze well – even if blanched.
Uses For Cucumbers
Cucumbers can be used in so many ways:
- Sliced and included in salads.
- Used as wraps. Wash the cucumbers really well. Then, using a vegetable peeler, peel thin strips off the cucumber. Lay flat and place other thinly sliced veggies or dip on top. Roll the cucumber strips.
- Add slices to drinking water.
- Tzatziki sauce
- Use in a veggie tray to dip into Hummus or other dips
Do you love cucumbers? Let us know how you like to eat or prepare it.
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