7 Unique Cucumber Varieties Worth Trying ASAP (and Exactly How to Enjoy Each One)
If you love cucumbers, consider branching out and trying different varieties, instead of sticking to your favorite every time you go to the store. For inspiration we asked farmers, chefs, and other food experts to weigh in on the best known types of cucumbers (as well as some lesser known varieties). Read on for their top picks.
"The thick, deep, green-skinned cucumber most often found in grocery stores goes by so many names that even farmers' certificates often just list them as 'slicing cucumbers,'" says Catt Fields White, the founder of San Diego Markets and The Farmers' Market Pros. Since they have heavy skins, these cucumbers are often peeled but doing so is a matter of personal preference. She says they frequent crudité trays since their size makes them perfect for scooping up guacamole or buttermilk dips or shredding into tzatziki. Michael Clark of J.R. Organics Farm, in Escondido, California, says the garden cucumber is their go-to and notices that customers put slices of this cucumber in pitchers of water for a refreshing finish and use them as a tasty, bright ingredient to add in their smoothies.
You'll find English cucumbers, also known as "hot house," at your local grocery store. These pierce and bruise easily, so they aren't often found at farmers' markets. They're are "individually wrapped for their thinner, non-waxed skin," says Chef Christina Sanchez-Towers of Yellow Magnolia Café, the restaurant-within-a-greenhouse at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. "They are labeled seedless, but they do have seeds—[they're] just much thinner and easier to chew." These cucumbers are known for being sweeter than other varieties and are used in the classic cucumber tea sandwich. Sanchez-Towers likes to dress them in a red wine vinaigrette with fresh garden basil for a refreshing bite.
These cucumbers are harvested in a small and slender state, usually five or six inches long and sold packaged in trays of about five cucumbers at grocery stores. Fields White notes that these thin-skinned fruits are crisp, mild-flavored, and sweet to snack on. They are ideal for eating out of hand or slicing into a salad filled with other spring and summer vegetables.
Kirbys are usually harvested when they're short and stubby, says Clark. They have a softer green appearance (in comparison to garden cucumbers), and are known as "pickling cucumbers," since they are sturdy. Clark says besides using them for pickles, he considers this variety one of the best for snacking and salads.
You might not see Armenian cucumbers in your supermarket yet, but these long, curved cucumbers are becoming more widely known and appreciated. Fields White says they are light green and fast-growing cucumbers that are both crisp and light. They are too soft to pickle, but delicious when sliced thinly and served with a sweet vinegar dressing.
This very distinctive looking cucumber is yellow—just like its name suggests. "They're round, not long; sweet, not sour; full of flavor, but mild enough to munch with just a sprinkle of good salt or chili powder," says Fields White. Andrew Murphy, a farmer at Indian Summer Farms, in Ramona, California, adds that shoppers often confuse them with yellow summer squashes that come into season around the same time.
Mexican Sour Gherkin
Sanchez-Towers describes these cucumbers as "mini watermelons" based on their appearance, and she has found them at local grocery stores. The chef loves to use them in a watermelon feta salad, as they have a hint of lemon in their flavor profile that she says provides a perfect, tangy touch to the dish. If you find them at your store or farmers' market, try them as an addition to our Watermelon, Orange, and Feta Salad.