First domestically grown in ancient India around the second–third millennia BC, cucumbers are technically a fruit and belong to the same botanical family as melons. While packed with a number of vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folic acid, vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium to name a few), they are actually made up of 95% water.
The most popular commercially grown cucumber in New Zealand, where they are grown in glasshouses all year round. Their skin is delicate and edible, and therefore it does not need peeling. Supply is always a challenge during the winter months with the low sunshine hours and temperatures, and this is represented by the volatility in pricing during this period. Cucumbers are grown as a Tag 1 product, generally measuring about 30– 45cm in length. Tag 2 Cucumbers are smaller or misshapen cucumbers.
Smaller, both shorter and narrower, than a telegraph. Lebanese cucumbers also don’t need to be peeled.
The English cucumber has a tougher skin with tiny spikes that is best peeled before eating. The English cucumber also has larger seeds than the telegraph.
These oval shaped cucumbers have a white to light yellow-green skin. They are crisp like an apple with large seeds inside.
A recent addition to the cucumber range, these tiny cucumbers are picked between 8–10cms. They are perfect for eating whole, quartered lengthwise and added to a platter or as garnish for a cocktail.
Gherkins are small cucumbers, usually 5–10cm, and are only grown for pickling.
Almost solely eaten raw, cucumbers are welcome in salads for their texture and crunch. They are a traditional addition to classic salads like Greek salad and panzanella. A traditional pairing in both English and Asian cuisine is with vinegar. Their high water content and cooling flesh makes them the perfect cooling food to accompany spicy cuisines, which is why you see cucumbers play their part in dishes like tzatziki and riata.
They also add a fresh element to dishes like Peking duck pancakes or fresh spring rolls while also making a wonderful edible vessel for canapés. Cucumber pairs beautifully with soft herbs, like mint, dill, basil, chives and shiso. They are complemented by Greek yoghurt and feta, tomato, fennel, citrus, avocado, grapes, duck, beef, salmon and prawns, not to mention a little spice.
The majority of cucumbers in New Zealand are grown in glasshouses, with our largest growers based in Pukekohe and north of Auckland.