Cucumbers cultivated in America have a bitterness that
comes from natural chemicals under the skin; peeling these
varieties will reduce bitterness considerably. European cucumbers
have a thinner skin, a milder taste, and can be served skin-on.
With the exception of seasonal farmers market varietals, American
cucumbers are waxed to retain water content, while in Europe
they come wrapped in plastic for the same reason. Cucumbers
don’t keep well in cold temperatures, so store them
outside of the refrigerator, away from tomatoes and other
fruit (which emit ethylene, a chemical that turns cucumbers
Standard varietals are widely available at markets during
summer, with rarer cucumbers occasionally appearing, too.
The Kirby’s skin is tough, bitter, and well-suited to
pickling, but should be removed before using in salads. Standard
American slicers can be served with or without skin, depending
on taste. Japanese slicers are sweeter and bear a thinner
skin, so peeling is unnecessary. Grown in the Middle East,
Persian cucumbers have tender flesh, thin skin, and few seeds.
The Mini White grows to only a few inches in length and has
an ivory skin. Its taste is sweet and dry.
Extract the fullest flavor from cucumber flesh by using structurally
disruptive preparations, such as a purée. Chef Drew
Van Leuvan of Tap uses puréed cucumber to
mellow the acidity of Roma tomatoes and pungency of basil
in his Involtini of Peekytoe Crab with Cucumber-Tomato Gazpacho.
At Sapa, Chef Gavin Portmouth anchors his Mango Sherbet
and Cucumber Champagne Soup in a base of puréed cucumber
and melon; it’s a bright, summery dish where aromatic
cucumber plays off the green, aromatic character of kiwi,
marjoram, and vodka. Muddling cucumber achieves a similar
effect in cocktails. Dani mixologist Ben Scorah adds
muddled cucumber, lime, and mint to his Qewcumber, echoing
the cool, herbaceous notes of Hendrick's gin.