Thought to have originated in Southern Asia, cucumbers had been around for a very long time before becoming very popular in India then making their way to Europe where they were used to quench thirst, as they contain 96% water. Closely related to the watermelon family, there are several varieties of cucumber, many of which can be found in New Zealand.
The telegraph cucumber is the most popular cucumber in New Zealand. Easily recognised by their length, telegraph cucumbers are often individually wrapped in plastic because their skin is very soft and easily damaged. The plastic stops the cucumber from drying out and going soft. Their skin does not need peeling as it is edible. They are often referred to as seedless because when harvested at their best, the seeds are immature or virtually nonexistent.
Short cucumber, sometimes referred to as the standard or stubby cucumber, is short and has a slightly uneven surface. Grown indoors all year round, it can also be grown outdoors in the summer. The skin on a standard cucumber is tougher than a telegraph cucumber and is usually peeled.
The Lebanese cucumber is a smaller version of a telegraph cucumber. Green skinned, white fleshed and not overly long. It has a juicy texture and tender skin that does not need to be peeled. Like telegraph cucumbers, they are often individually wrapped in plastic because their skin is very soft and easily damaged.
Apple cucumber is a pale yellow cucumber and is crisp like an apple. The skin can be quite hard so it is usually peeled, the flesh within being a very mild sweet flavour.
Cucumbers have very high water content and contain essential vitamins and minerals. The Lebanese cucumber provides almost twice the amount of vitamin C and vitamin A compared to other varieties. Peeling cucumbers reduces the dietary fibre content slightly so whenever you can, leave the skin on.
Store in the warmest place in the fridge and use promptly. Cooler times of the year they can be stored on the bench. Lebanese cucumbers are always best refrigerated.
Young cucumbers have a mild and tender skin and it is unnecessary to peel them. Telegraph, Lebanese and cocktail cucumbers never need to be peeled.
Cucumbers are often used in raw salads and sandwiches. They are also a great addition to a glass of water to add a little flavour.