8 Different Types of Cucumbers and What to Do with Them

Cucumbers are deliciously crunchy, cylindrical green fruits that belong to the same gourd family as pumpkin, zucchini, melons, and squash. Often mistaken as a vegetable, they taste amazing when eaten fresh on sandwiches and salads. But, did you know, the pickles that you enjoy as relish on hot dogs, a condiment on hamburgers, or as a side dish are actually made from cucumbers. In the US, these fruits are fermented with vinegar or brine and sold as pickles.

Cucumbers are broadly classified into two basic types, including the slicing variety that is consumed fresh and the pickling ones that are pickled. These two types are further sub-divided into a wide range of cucumber varieties, some of which are spiny or smooth, while others have very few seeds or lots of them.

Pickling Cucumbers: These cucumbers, commonly called picklers, are creamy yellow or light to dark green in color. They are short (3-4 inches), thick, and somewhat irregularly shaped, along with having a bumpy skin.

Slicing Cucumbers: Also known as slicers, these are typically consumed in the unripe form in salads or snacks because the ripe yellow variety becomes sour and bitter. The slicers are not a good choice for pickling, as they have a softer flesh that turns pulpy when used in pickles. As compared to picklers, the slicers are usually longer (7-8 inches),  with thicker and uniformly dark green skin, crispy texture, and fresh taste.

In both the above types, you will find a thin-skinned, seedless cultivar called the burpless cucumbers. These are named ‘burpless’ because they possess a low amount of the bitter compound cucurbitacin, which causes the buildup of gas.

Some of the Best Cucumber Varieties to Know about

Types of Pickling Cucumbers

1. Kirby

Kirby Cucumber

Typically sold as ‘pickling cucumbers’, these are short (typically 6 inches or less), stout fruits that come in a mix of yellow and dark green colors and have thin, bumpy skin with small insignificant seeds. While the Kirbys are incredibly crispy and crunchy, their mild flavor makes them suitable for pickles. Aside from being used in different pickle recipes, these cukes are used in salads and gazpachos.

2. Gherkins

Gherkins Cucumber

These are small, stubby cucumbers, growing about 2-3 inches long and having a light green, bumpy skin. Since they easily fit inside a jar, they are an excellent choice for pickles. Although you can eat them fresh, pickled gherkins are used for garnishing Bloody Mary and serving on a relish tray. Pickled gherkins, called cornichons in France, are a popular addition to pate, which is a creamy, spicy paste used in French cuisine.

3. Lemon

Lemon Cucumber

As the name implies, these cucumbers come with the size and color akin to a lemon. As the fruits ripen, their thin skin turns golden-yellow with the flesh becoming sweet and crispy. They have minimal soft seeds and lack the hint of bitterness found in other cucumber varieties. While lemon cucumbers are used for making delicious pickles, they are also served fresh in tofu salads, pea salads, zucchini, and basil pesto. Their juices are included in smoothies, cocktails, and Aguas Frescas.

Types of Slicing Cucumbers

1. Armenian

Armenian Cucumber

These cukes, being 11-15 inches long and having a thin, curved shape, are nicknamed snake melon or snake cucumber. They possess very soft seeds, crunchy flesh, and a delicate, dark green or yellowish-green skin. The Armenian cucumbers do not have to be peeled or seeded for eating. They are usually consumed fresh for their pleasant taste. These are used raw in pasta salads and green leaf salads. They can be pureed, grilled, and are also included in sushi and sandwiches. Despite being a slicing variety, it holds its texture well when pickled.

2. English/European

English Cucumber

The English cukes, known for having a thin skin and very few to no seeds, are called seedless or hot-house cucumbers. These are commonly available wrapped in plastic at the marketplace or grocery stores. They grow long, measuring about 12-24 inches, and are characterized by dark green skin along with pinched ends. These fruits are valued for their mild, sweet taste and are best eaten raw, also making a delightful addition to a glass of martini or sake.

3. American

American Cucumber

These are straight, dark green cucumbers that measure 8-10 inches in length and may have a yellow patch at the top. They are known for not just their glossy skin that lack spines but also their sweet, juicy flesh. American cucumbers are coated with wax to help prevent loss of moisture, which is the reason why they need to be thoroughly peeled before eating. These cukes are an excellent choice for salads and cucumber-lime sauces that are eaten with fish like salmon.

4. Kyuri/Japanese Cucumbers

Japanese Cucumber

They are a dark green, slim-shaped variety, having tiny seeds and thin skin with small bumps. The Japanese cucumbers, prized for their deliciously sweet taste and crispiness, are commonly eaten raw as salads or garnishes. They are also popularly used in bento, sushi, and sashimi. Japanese cukes are also available as ‘burpless’ varieties.

5. Persian

Persian Cucumber

These are similar to the English variety, but they may have somewhat bumpy skin and come in different sizes. Because of their thin skin and mild flavor, they are popularly sliced as an ingredient in salads and creamy dips. Persian cucumbers are also quite sturdy and can be stir-fried, used on pizzas, or juiced in popsicles and cocktails.

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