The Chinese say food should be enjoyed for
its texture as well as flavor. Cucumbers have a unique texture and
refreshing cool taste. An afternoon tea with cucumber sandwiches, thinly
sliced cucumber between wafer thin brown buttered bread, provides a
delight of contrasts - the soft bread, the smooth butter and the cool
English Cucumbers: These are the
cucumbers that English are most familiar with. They have fewer seeds and
thinner skin than the ridged cucumber.
Gherkins : These are tiny cucumbers
with bumpy, almost warty skins and are mostly pickled in vinegar and
eaten with cold meats or chopped into mayonnaise.
Kirbys : Small cucumbers, available
in the United States and used for pickling.
Ridged Cucumbers : These are smaller
than most cucumbers with more seeds and a thick, bumpy skin. You can buy
them all over France but otherwise they tend to be available only in
specialist greengrocers. The waxed ones need to be peeled before eating
but most ridged cucumbers on the Continent are un-waxed and good without
Buying and Storing : Cucumbers should
be firm from top to bottom. They are often sold pre-wrapped in plastic
and can be stored in the salad drawer of the fridge for up to a week.
Remove the plastic packaging once you've "started" a cucumber. Discard
once it begins to go soggy.
Preparing : Whether you peel a
cucumber or not is a matter of personal preference, but wash it if you
don't intend to peel it. Some producers use wax coatings to give a
glossy finish and these cucumbers must be peeled. If you are in doubt,
buy organic cucumbers. Special citrus peelers can remove strips of peel
to give an attractive striped effect when sliced.
Serving : Thinly sliced cucumber is
most frequently served with a light dressing or soured cream. In Greece
cucumber is an essential part of a Greek country salad, horiatiki
salata, cut into thick chunks and served with tomatoes, peppers and
feta and dressed simply with olive oil and a little wine vinegar. Iced
cucumber soup is delicious, and cucumber can also be pureed with yogurt,
garlic and herbs and served with soured cream stirred in.
Cooking : Cucumbers are normally
served raw, but are surprisingly good cooked. Cut the cucumber into
wedges, remove the seeds and then simmer for a few minutes until tender.
Once drained, return the cucumber to the pan and stir in a little cream