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Cucumber Varieties

A Brief Guide to Types of Cucumbers

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Once available only at the best-stocked farmers markets, different types of cucumbers are showing up at co-ops and grocery stores (not to mention garden patches). Here's a guide to some cucumber varieties - Armenian, English, lemon, Persian - you may encounter and and a few ideas on how to use them.

You may also want to check out All About Cucumbers for more about buying, storing, and using these cooling summer vegetables, or these Crisp Cucumber Salads for quick ways to enjoy cucumbers of all sorts. Or make a quick Cold Cucumber Yogurt Soup and call it a day.

Armenian Cucumbers

Armenian cucumbers
_e.t/Wikimedia Commons
Armenian cucumbers are long, thin, and slightly variegated in darker and lighter shades of light green or a yellowish-green. They are delightfully crunchy and are delicious simply sliced and eaten raw. They have very soft seeds and a thin skin, requiring neither seeding nor peeling for eating. They are not good for pickling.

English Cucumbers

English Cucumbers
Photo © Maximilian Stock Ltd. (Getty Images)
English cucumbers (a.k.a. hot house cucumbers) are long, thin, with a dark green skin. They are often sold wrapped in plastic at supermarkets, but you can find unwrapped ones at farmers markets (despite their alias, these cucumbers do not require a hot house or plastic wrap to grow). This cucumber has a mild, almost non-existent flavor, and is prized for its thin skin and minimal seeds. Like Armenian cucumbers, English cucumbers are best sliced and raw and are not good for pickling.

Garden Cucumbers

Photo © Molly Watson
These are the most common cucumbers in North America. They are relatively smooth skinned and dark green. Cucumbers sold at grocery stores tend to be waxed to help them retain moisture, which is part of why these cucumbers tend to need peeling. Un-waxed varieties can be found (particularly at farmers markets), but you may still want to peel them if the skin is thick or bitter.

Kirby Cucumbers

Kirby Cucumbers
Photo © Molly Watson
Kirby cucumbers are usually short and always bumpy. They have a range of skin color from yellow to dark green. Kirbys are nice and crunchy for eating raw, but flavorful enough to be perfect for pickling too. These are sometimes even sold under the name "pickling cucumbers."

Lemon Cucumbers

Photo © Molly Watson
Yellow, round, the size of a generous fist. Yep, these cucumbers look like lemons (seriously, that is a picture of cucumbers, lemon cucumbers, not lemons). They are sweet, without that bitter edge that most cucumbers have, thin skins, minimal soft seeds, and flavorful. They are tasty raw and look positively lovely in salads, but they make delicious pickles too.

Persian Cucumbers

Persian Cucumbers
Photo © Molly Watson
Persian cucumbers are very similar to English cucumbers. So similar, in fact, that they are pretty much visually indistinguishable from fresh, not-wrapped-in-plastic English cukes, except that they come in a greater range of lengths - some shorter, some longer, and sometimes have slightly bumpy skin like a Kirby. Persian cukes have a mild flavor and thin skins - they're great for salads, or I like to use slices of them to scoop up dip.

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