Cucumbers are often taken for granted because they’re always available, but there are several varieties and they all taste a little different and have different uses. Baby ‘Lebanese’ cucumbers are gorgeously sweet and crunchy, with tender skin and immature seeds, but they are not long-keepers.
Telegraph cucumbers are New Zealand’s favourite cucumber. Grown under glass, the cucumbers grow to an even length and are packed in plastic to protect their skins and to stop them shrivelling. Fatter shorter cucumbers, usually just referred to as short green cucumbers, are also available, either grown under glass, or outdoors in warmer months. The skin is tougher and the seeds more mature, but the flavour is very good. Pale lemony-yellow apple cucumbers are available in the summer months. These are mild-tasting, crisp if freshly picked, with mature seeds. They generally need peeling.
When buying a cucumber, choose one that feels firm – check both ends of a telegraph cucumber – and opt for greener cucumbers which are more freshly picked (they turn yellowish as they age). Firm freshly picked telegraph cucumbers should stay fresh for a week at least, but Lebanese cucumbers are best eaten within a few days. Keep cucumbers refrigerated. Lebanese cucumbers contain more vitamin C than telegraph cucumbers, but all cucumbers contain silicon, and are more nutritious if eaten skin and all.
The burp thing
Yes, cucumbers get blamed for lots of things, burping, belching, hiccoughing, rumbling tummies, indigestion and passing wind, to name just a few. Ridding them of their seeds helps, especially homegrown cucumbers and old-fashioned varieties with mature seeds. Telegraph cucumbers are milder, the seeds less developed and the skin generally more tender and don’t cause such severe reactions. If you are prone to suffering the burps, but still want to eat cucumber, trim the cucumber, peel and slice it then layer it in a colander, sprinkling with salt. The salt will rid the cucumber of some of its indigestible properties. Rinse the cucumber and pat dry with kitchen paper before using.