There are nearly a hundred different types of cucumbers, with each having its own characteristics. Coming from the Cucurbitaceae family, some have a bumpy surface while others have a smooth one. There are some cucumbers with many seeds while others have few.
But out of all of them, English cucumber, also known as burpless cucumber, is something we’re all familiar with. It is used as an ingredient in a variety of everyday dishes, from burgers and juices to more special ones like a Greek salad sandwich and cilantro tomato pasta salad.
What Is an English Cucumber?
The English cucumber is grown in hothouses, which are greenhouses that are modified to cultivate plants that grow in warm temperatures. Additionally, English cucumber seeds are edible since they are tinier than other cucumber seeds. Because of these facts, it is also called “hothouse” and “seedless” cucumber.
In terms of appearance, it is longer and narrower than other cucumbers. And just like any other burpless cucumber, its smooth, thin skin is edible. In terms of taste, the English cucumber has a mildly sweet flavor, in contrast with the other cucumbers that can be bitter due to their seeds.
But before further discussing how unique this kind of cucumber is, we should first get to know the three main varieties of cucumbers.
Pickling Cucumber vs. Slicing Cucumber vs. English Cucumber
Cucumbers are categorized into three groups: pickling, slicing, and burpless.
First are pickling cucumbers. As the name suggests, these plants are commonly used to make pickles where slices are soaked in vinegar or salted water. They have thin and spiny skins and are shorter compared with slicing cucumbers. Some examples of pickling cucumbers include calypso, Carolina, and Parisian cucumbers.
On the other hand, slicing cucumbers are long, waxy, and mostly dark green with a juicy texture. Often seen in groceries, chefs and home cooks serve these cucumbers fresh on sandwiches and salads. Additionally, the skin and seeds of slicing cucumbers are bitter. So if you’re not fond of bitter flavors, it’s best to remove them. Some examples in the slicing category are the Tanja, fanfare, and diva cucumbers.
The English cucumber belongs under the burpless category. Cucumbers under this category have small seeds and skin thinner than the other varieties. Additionally, they tend to be sweeter than other kinds of cucumber.
So now we know the difference between these three groups. But how does English cucumber compare with two other seemingly similar cucumbers: the Persian cucumber, and the Japanese cucumber?
English Cucumber vs. Persian Cucumber
Also known as “sfran cucumber,” Persian cucumber is juicy and crunchy. Additionally, it has a high tolerance for heat due to its solid structure. This characteristic makes the Persian cucumber a good ingredient for stir-fried vegetables like this delicious recipe for a pork and vegetable stir-fry.
Just like English cucumbers, the Persian cucumber also belongs to the burpless variety due to its tiny, edible seeds. It also has a mildly sweet flavor and smooth skin. This makes Persian cucumber a great substitute if you can’t find any English cucumber.
However, the similarities end there. In terms of appearance, Persian cucumber is a lot shorter than English cucumbers. When sold, the Persian variety is also bundled up to six pieces inside a package. The English kind, on the other hand, is wrapped in plastic when bought in supermarkets and grocery stores.
So if the difference in Persian cucumber comes from its length and packaging, how is English cucumber different from the Japanese cucumber?
English Cucumber vs. Japanese Cucumber
Known in Japanese as “kyuri,” this cucumber is enjoyed fresh in Japanese dishes such as sushi and sashimi. The Japanese cucumber’s crunchy texture and fruity flavor also make it a great ingredient for bento meals.
Just like the English and Persian varieties, the Japanese cucumber is also sweeter compared to the other kinds of cucumbers. It also does not have any mature seeds inside it. These characteristics also make Japanese cucumber a great substitute for English cucumber.
But unlike English cucumbers, Japanese cucumbers are categorized as “climbing cucumbers,” which fall under the slicing category. And in terms of appearance, Japanese cucumbers are a little shorter than their English counterparts. Additionally, while they do have a smooth surface, some parts of the Japanese cucumber may have little bumps or freckles.
Now that you know how different English cucumber is compared with its closest relatives, you’ll probably want to know how to buy and store one.
Buying and Storing English Cucumber
You can buy English cucumber in the grocery throughout the whole year. Vendors often sell it wrapped in a plastic sheet. However, this variety tends to be more expensive than the other kinds of cucumber since it’s grown in a hothouse.
To ensure that you’re buying high-quality, make sure that you look for one that has a tubular shape. Gently grip both ends of the vegetable to test its freshness, and run your hand through it to make sure it’s firm. If the cucumber is mushy, has squishy parts, and is moist inside the plastic, then best not buy it.
To store your English cucumber, let it stay in its wrapping and place it on the drier parts of the refrigerator. As long as the cucumber doesn’t get moist, it will stay fresh for a week.
If you’re going to use the cucumber, pull the plastic back and take only the portion you need. After that, use the plastic to wrap the cucumber. Don’t forget to wash the portion you took!
How to Preserve English Cucumber for Later Use
Maybe you overbought a lot of English cucumbers to make a refreshing melon, papaya, and cucumber salad. Simply putting the extras in the refrigerator is a no-go since it’ll only last for a week. While you can surely pickle English cucumbers to extend their shelf life, there are other methods to help preserve them as well. Just like how you can freeze celery, cucumbers hold up well frozen too.
Slice the cucumber and place them on a tray lined with parchment paper. Freeze the tray for a few hours, then after freezing, transfer the slices in a labeled freezer bag. Store them in the freezer again afterward.
You may also freeze the green veggies using an ice cube tray. Cut the cucumber into cubes then place them in an ice tray. Fill the tray with water then put it in the freezer. When the water is frozen, pop the cucumber cubes out of the tray and transfer them to a freezer bag. Label the bag then store it once again in the freezer.
Now that you know how to pick and store a good quality English cucumber, you’ll want to use it in some delicious and refreshing recipes.
Recipes With English Cucumber for You to Try
Here are some mouthwatering recipes that you might want to try using this green vegetable:
- Cucumber Pasta – Serve English cucumber with some pasta then add in some parsley and mustard. This refreshing dish is the perfect vegan option for a warm, summer day.
- Cream of Cucumber Soup – This dish is the perfect option for a cold day. Pair the English cucumber with some spinach, Crisco, and milk. Toss in some croutons and serve this recipe for a warm meal!
- Refreshing Corn, Black Bean, and Cucumber Salad – English cucumber has its own innate sweet flavor and juicy texture. So why not use those characteristics for a refreshing salad? Pair the veggie with some corn, black bean, and tomatoes. Amplify the flavors with some crushed tortilla chips and cheese, and you’ll have yourself a healthy and delicious salad.
- Tilapia with Cucumber Radish Relish – English cucumber is a pretty versatile vegetable. You can use it for any meals, even as a relish. Mix the cucumber with other veggies and herbs such as radish and tarragon. Then serve it with tilapia or any fried fish.
English Cucumber’s Unique Characteristics Make It Different
The many ways you can prepare and cook this vegetable prove that it is one of the most versatile ingredients you should have in your kitchen. Its smooth texture and sweet taste make English cucumber unique. Feel free to use those characteristics to make an equally unique dish too!