Getting to Know Cucumbers for Garden and Kitchen
Part 3 of 3: A Guide to Cucumber Types
The 1st article in this series described 2 general categories of cucumbers (slicers versus picklers, and vining versus bush); the 2nd article in this series shared definitions of terms used to describe cucumbers. Building on this prior information, we hope you will now be able to easily understand and select types of cucumbers for your garden or kitchen.
All of the cucumber types listed below are of one species, the common garden cucumber (Cucumis sativus) with the exception of Armenian cucumber (Cucumis melo var. flexuosus) and Gherkin (Cucumis anguria).
American cucumbers, also sometimes called garden cucumbers, are the traditional slicers grown and eaten in the United States. They are much wider in diameter in proportion to length than other slicers such as English and Persian cucumbers. Many American-cucumber varieties have thick or tough skins, which makes them harder to digest, and which is commonly aggravated by waxing to extend shelf life when sold at supermarkets. These are the straight, plump cucumbers that are often peeled before eating.
A traditional slicing American cucumber
Armenian cucumbers are botanically a type of melon, a different species (Cucumis melo var. flexuosus) than the common garden cucumber. They produce mild flavored, easy-to-digest, very-large, slender fruits of up to 24 inches, with eating quality generally best at about 12 inches or shorter in length. Fruits are slightly ridged or ribbed, with soft skin, and are often pale green or striped with darker green.
Asian: The term “Asian cucumbers” is used so variably that GardenZeus does not consider it to have a clear or established meaning. Asian cucumbers may refer to Japanese types, Persian types, collectively all types that originate in or are associated with any Asian country including India and China, or otherwise.
English cucumbers are slicers with exceptionally long, mild-flavored fruits, with many varieties retaining prime eating quality at 12 inches or longer in fruit length. English varieties are typically burpless, seedless, and thin-skinned. They may be called greenhouse cucumbers, hothouse cucumbers, or European hothouse cucumbers. Some varieties are parthenocarpic. They are require more attention and maintenance than other types, such as trellising to optimize fruit straightness, and perform best within narrow environmental and growing requirements.
Gherkin may refer to Cucumis anguria, a species of cucurbit closely related to the common garden cucumber (Cucumis sativus). In the United States particularly, it may also refer to small cucumbers intended for picking, and in English-speaking countries outside of the United States, “gherkin” is often used simply to mean “pickle” as defined in U.S. English.
Japanese: Often called Asian cucumbers or Kyuri, Japanese cucumbers are typically narrow, meaning small in diameter in proportion to length as compared to other types. They are versatile but most commonly used as slicers. They are harvested at various fruit lengths with some varieties remaining mild at fruit size of 12 inches or longer. Most are burpless, thin-skinned, and seedless. When grown successfully they are among the sweetest and most flavorful of all cucumber varieties.
Lemon cucumber is a famous heirloom that is often treated as a different type or cultivar. It is most commonly used as a slicer but can also be pickled. The name arises from appearance of the fruits, which are round, yellow, and may reach the size of a fist or larger; rather than the flavor, which is mild, sweet, and all cucumber.
Persian cucumbers are mild, thin-skinned, crunchy slicers that are usually described as seedless and burpless, and are popular for ease of digestion. They are typically harvested and sold at a smaller size than American slicers, and are much narrower. They may also be described as Middle Eastern cucumbers.