Cultivated for thousands of years, cucumbers—a fruit in the same family as gourds—likely originated in India or Thailand. Today they are grown all over the world in numerous varieties, from tiny pickling cucumbers to the large, smooth, European greenhouse type. While they’re available year-round, cucumbers peak in the summer. Middle Eastern, Asian, and European varieties tend to be fuller-flavored, sweeter, and more finely textured than the American slicing cucumbers you see most often in stores; they’re our choice for most preparations. Most often enjoyed raw or pickled, they’re also lovely in sautés or puréed with yogurt for cold soups or drinks.
HOW TO BUY
Choose smooth cucumbers with brightly colored skins; avoid yellowing cucumbers and those that have been waxed.
HOW TO STORE
Cucumbers keep well as long as they’re tightly wrapped to avoid drying out; store them in a plastic bag in the warmest part of your fridge for up to 10 days, or store cut cucumbers tightly wrapped in the fridge for up to 5.
HOW TO PREPARE
Thinner-skinned cucumbers, like Middle Eastern, Asian, and European varieties, don’t need to be peeled—simply wash in cold water before using. Larger cucumbers with thicker skins benefit from peeling.