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Produce 101: Cucumbers

Today we are going to talk about Produce 101: Cucumbers

Cucumbers are how old?

Cucumbers are one of the most ubiquitous items in the produce world, but did you know there are a few main types of cucumbers?  Cucumbers originated in India and are believed to have been cultivated for over 3,000 years.  Appreciated for their mild flavor and cooling effects, cucumbers are beginning to make a bit of a resurgence in some unlikely places, especially in the bar where their juice is currently all the rage for mixologists.

What are the types of cucumbers

There are three main types of cucumbers, and while all are similar in terms of handling, structure and flavor, they are used in different ways.

  • Salad/garden (aka field grown)

Salad, or garden, cucumbers are the most common, and are typically used sliced or diced in raw applications.  With the garden cucumber, the seeds are well-formed and—while certainly edible—they’re just not very palatable.

Cut them in half, scoop the seeds out, and go from there.

Also, the skin is thicker than the hothouse cucumber, and can sometimes be a bit bitter. They are also usually coated with an edible wax.

  • European/Seedless/Hot House (aka burpless)

European or Hothouse cucumbers, are also known as seedless and even burpless cucumbers, and while not truly seedless, the seeds are less mature and more easily digested.  In addition, the skin is thinner and the sizing is much more uniform. They are most commonly seen wrapped in plastic as they get dehydrated easily.

  • Pickling (aka Kirby)

Pickling cucumbers are primarily used for what their name implies.  The thicker skin and slightly denser flesh makes for a better finished pickle.  While you can certainly use these as you would a garden cucumber, it will require a little more work to make them work.

produce 101 cucumber types
Pictured left to right: garden, hothouse, and pickling cucumbers.

 

Grades

Cucumbers do have USDA specs that are based mainly on external appearances, with sizing, color and uniformity being the major determinants, US Fancy being the highest grade for both garden and European varieties and US #1 being the highest grade for pickling cukes.

 

freshpoint-produce-101-cucumbers
Grades of cucumbers

 

Consider using some of the lower grades if you’re processing them, as the quality will be the same, but the product will likely be a bit less expensive.  There are some common industry terms such as Super Select, Select, Large, Small, etc…that are used, but carry no statutory backing.

Produce 101: Cucumbers — how to properly store cucumbers

Cucumbers are cold sensitive, don’t let them get below 45 degrees Fahrenheit or some surface pitting will manifest.  Avoid storing near ethylene producing items, as cucumbers are extremely sensitive to ethylene exposure.

  • The recommended storage temperatures of cucumbers is 40-50 degrees F
  • The middle of your cooler (2) is the best place for them.

 

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The coolest part is near the fan (1), and the warmest is by the door (3)

Go beyond salads

Cucumbers make a great juice, and with mixology being as hot as it is take some #2 cucumbers put them in your juicer, strain it, and you’ve got a great mixer to offer your customers at your bar.

 

freshpoint-produce-cucumbers-drink
Light, refreshing, and perfect for your craft cocktails.

 

 

 


 

Content provided by Chef Daniel Snowden, the Director of Culinary Development for FreshPoint Central Florida. He has been in the produce industry years almost 20 years, and loves getting geeky about food. Follow FreshPoint Central Florida on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Additional contributions by Lisa Pettineo.

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