Here’s How You Can Use Cucumbers In The Kitchen

Cucumbers can be prepared in a variety of ways – whether in a salad, as a soup, or combined in an exotic way. Here you can find out what to consider when buying cucumbers, how you can grow cucumbers yourself, and everything you need to know about preparing the refreshing fruit vegetable.

The cucumber is a pumpkin

The cucumber does not look very similar to the pumpkin and the melon; nevertheless, they all belong to the pumpkin family and are therefore closely related. The cucumber genus includes 52 species that are native to both temperate and tropical regions.

One of them is the cucumber (Cucumis sativus) known to us – also known as Kukumer in some regions of Germany, and as Gugommer in Switzerland. It is one of the most important vegetables in the world.

Since the fruit of the cucumber plant is consumed, the cucumber counts as e.g. B. also the tomato, the pepper, and the aubergine to the fruit vegetables. It is an annual plant.

Not all cucumbers are green

There are numerous varieties of cucumbers, which can vary greatly in terms of size, shape, and color. There are not only green but also orange, yellow, and white as well as extremely long or twisted specimens that can reach a length of 1 m. Unlike e.g. B. in India, however, only a few varieties are sold in our regions.

These types of cucumbers exist

In terms of culinary and use in the kitchen, a distinction is made between a few types of cucumbers:

Cucumbers or cucumbers have a cylindrical, slightly curved shape, smooth skin, no thorns, and weigh around 400 g. The mini cucumber, which is only half the weight, is a small and very aromatic variant. Cucumbers are primarily cultivated in greenhouses and are therefore also referred to as greenhouse cucumbers.

Country or field cucumbers: In contrast to the cucumbers, country or field cucumbers are grown outdoors. They are smaller and have a thicker and often prickly shell.

Nostrano cucumber: An interesting representative from the group of prickly cucumbers is the Nostrano cucumber, which is also known as the hedgehog among cucumbers. It is dark green in color and about 20 cm long, making it an ideal cucumber for smaller households. The Nostrano cucumber is also characterized by its aromatic, intense taste. The “hedgehog cucumber” is offered in particular at vegetable markets, health food stores, and organic shops.

Stewed cucumbers are smaller and thicker than cucumbers, have a green to yellowish color, and have a stronger taste. They usually come from outdoor cultivation and are not so good for salads. Their shell is hard and indigestible and should therefore be removed along with the seeds. Braised or steamed, they are a real delicacy.

Gherkins or gherkins are grown almost exclusively outdoors. Compared to cucumbers, they are extremely small and, like all cucumbers, are harvested immaturely. They are then sorted and inserted according to size. While small varieties are preserved in jars as gherkins and gherkins, medium-sized varieties are sold in large cans or as gherkin pots. Larger grades are processed into tongue cucumbers. Cucumbers are characterized by their small core. They are usually cut into cubes, pickled, and marketed as mustard pickles. You can also easily make pickled gherkins yourself.

Recipes with cucumbers

As its name suggests, the cucumber is primarily used to prepare salads, but boredom certainly does not arise. Because there are no limits when it comes to dressing. Whether with olive oil and red wine vinegar or with hemp oil and lemon juice: the long green fruit vegetable is truly a quick-change artist.

Cucumbers are grown here

About 80 million tons of cucumbers are harvested worldwide every year. By far the largest cucumber producer is China, where around 62 million tons are produced. The main European producers are Spain and Poland.

Cucumbers are available all year round and come primarily from greenhouse cultures. In German-speaking countries, you can use local vegetables from the beginning of April to the end of November. At the same time, Spanish cucumbers are sold. If demand is high, outdoor cucumbers from other EU countries are also offered in the summer.

How to grow cucumbers yourself

If you have a garden or greenhouse, you can easily grow cucumbers yourself. A warm, humid, wind-protected location in full sun and humus-rich, loose soil are important.

When choosing a strain, pay attention to whether it is suitable for outdoor cultivation or in a greenhouse. Also, consider whether you would like to sow/plant an old variety or a modern one.

Cucumbers have male and female flowers, with only female flowers producing fruit. In the meantime, however, there are modern breeds that produce predominantly female or even purely female flowers. These strains deliver higher yields because a fruit grows on each bud.

Since cucumbers are heavy feeders, they should be fertilized regularly, preferably using organic fertilizers such as compost, well-seasoned horse manure, or nettle manure. In addition, vegetables have a high water requirement and should therefore be watered daily, especially during fruit formation and in dry periods.

If you follow these tips, you will not only harvest so many cucumbers that you will hardly be able to keep up with them, but you will also significantly reduce the risk of bitter substances forming in the cucumbers. It is important to know that both bitter and bitter-free cucumbers can develop on a plant. So taste your pickles before you prepare them!

In dry summer weather, the plants are susceptible to powdery mildew, a fungal disease in which the leaves are covered with a mealy-white coating and soon die. Spraying and watering with nettle liquid manure prevents this.

You can grow cucumbers in a bucket

However, cucumbers are also perfect for being cultivated as potted plants on the balcony or terrace – a bright location, e.g. B. on a southern house wall they particularly like. And in a bucket that should hold at least 15 liters of soil (e.g. tomato soil), they obviously feel comfortable.

After the ice saints from mid-May, the young plants can go outside. Expect to water the plants twice a day on hot days. A layer of mulch is recommended to reduce the watering effort. The first cucumbers can often be harvested four weeks after planting.

Also, make sure to support the plants with a climbing aid. One or two cucumber plants are enough to feed a two-person household. 50 cucumbers per plant and season are not uncommon!

What to look out for when buying cucumbers

When buying, make sure that the cucumbers are crisp and the ends are firm. If the vegetables can be bent, they should no longer end up in the shopping basket. The skin should be undamaged, taut, and rich in green color.

Except for stewed cucumbers, the yellow color indicates that the vegetable is no longer fresh or was harvested too late. Muddy spots indicate damage from the cold and are therefore due to improper storage.

Cucumbers in plastic wrap

Cucumbers stay fresh a little longer thanks to the plastic. In addition, in supermarkets, where many people touch the vegetables and do a pressure test, the plastic packaging ensures more hygiene. However, we recommend that you buy cucumbers unpackaged in organic shops, at farmers’ markets, or directly from the producer in the farm shop, where they are usually offered freshly harvested.

This is the best way to store cucumbers

Cucumbers are sun worshipers and particularly prone to cold damage. Symptoms include watery, easily bruised spots on the skin, a glassy consistency, and a noticeable loss of flavor.

For this reason, you should never store your cucumbers at temperatures below 7 degrees Celsius and therefore also not in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator, where they can only withstand 3 to 4 days.

The ideal storage temperature is between 10 and 12 degrees Celsius and allows a storage period of around 14 days. At room temperature, cucumbers quickly become wilted and soft. Ideal storage locations are therefore the basement or a cool pantry.

You should also avoid storing cucumbers next to fruits and vegetables such as apples, tomatoes, or melons. This is because these emit ethylene gas during the after-ripening process, which means that the cucumbers quickly become overripe and are then inedible.

Freeze cucumbers

The water-rich cucumbers are not at all suitable for freezing, as the water in the cells also freezes, expands, and consequently destroys the cell walls. If the vegetables are then thawed, they are no longer crunchy, but mushy and unsightly and taste funny.

If you want to store your cucumbers for a longer period of time, you can pickle or can them. They can then be kept for many months.

Pickle cucumbers in vinegar

There’s no magic in pickling cucumbers in a vinegar broth. This is acidic enough to preserve the pickles. It is not necessary to heat the cucumbers themselves, it is enough to pour boiling broth over them.

Pickles are wonderful in combination with spices such as mustard and peppercorns, juniper berries, onions, garlic, chili peppers, and herbs such as dill, some of which also ensure longer shelf life. Compared to canned cucumbers, pickled cucumbers offer the advantage that they are rich in bioactive substances. However, the longer you store them, the more substances are transferred to the vinegar brew.

This is how pickled cucumbers are made

There is also the option of letting cucumbers ferment (lactic acid fermentation). To do this, they are placed in a saline solution. Vegetables fermented with lactic acid are particularly healthy, as there is hardly any loss of nutrients during fermentation – in contrast to other preservation methods. Fermented cucumbers act as a natural probiotic due to their lactic acid bacteria content.

For the winter supply, the cucumbers (pickling cucumbers) are harvested in autumn and then placed in a 5 percent brine (50 g of unrefined ancient salt in 1 liter of water). The cucumbers ferment for about 6 weeks.

You can also ferment cucumbers harvested in summer for just 1 or 2 weeks in 4 percent brine (40 g of unrefined ancient salt in 1 liter of water). These are not sour, but semi-sour cucumbers.

Cucumbers in the kitchen

Regardless of whether the cucumbers come from organic or conventional cultivation: Before processing, you should always wash them thoroughly under cold running water. Depending on the recipe, you can then grate the vegetables finely or coarsely, and cut them into cubes or slices.

Salting the cucumbers is an old custom that has been outdated. This used to be done when the vegetables still tasted quite bitter to flush out the bitterness. Since the valuable cucumber water escapes, you should refrain from doing this. It’s far smarter to prepare cucumbers just before you eat them.

Whether you peel cucumbers and remove the core is of course up to you, but by doing so you also reduce the content of bioactive substances and the taste.

Cucumbers in salads, soups, and vegetables

Due to its mild aroma, you can combine the cucumber wonderfully with other vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, or potatoes. Fruits such as papayas, apples, or kiwis and nuts also harmonize fantastically with the cucumber. Try our cucumber spinach salad with mango dill dressing and vegan salmon.

Cucumber cuts a good figure in both senses of the word in soups of all kinds. Gazpacho, for example, is popular, a southern Spanish and Portuguese creation that is conjured up from uncooked vegetables and is therefore served cold. The recipe for our cold cucumber bowl with soy yogurt and of course lots of fresh dills is very similar.

In India, cucumbers are often used to make curries and chutneys. Unlike here, where the vegetables are usually only refined with dill, many different spices and herbs such as turmeric, coriander, and chili come into play here, which provide an exotic touch.

This is how pickles are prepared

Stewed cucumbers are usually peeled and cored due to their thick skin. You can cut them into larger pieces or in 2 halves and e.g. B. fill with vegetables or mushrooms. They are simmered over medium heat for about 25 minutes with the lid on.

Children like the cucumber too

Children are not always big fans of vegetables. According to a study with 255 schoolchildren between the ages of 8 and 13, if cucumbers are served chopped up in large portions, the children ate 54 percent more cucumbers than when smaller portions but larger pieces were offered.

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