What Exactly Is A Pickling And Slicing Cucumber?

Cucumbers are one of those fruits that are typically treated like a vegetable and used in savory preparations like in different types of pickles, salads, and sandwiches, though they can also be delightful in smoothies and sorbet. A member of the gourd family and originally from southeast Asia, colors, shapes, tastes, and textures of cucumbers are numerous. While a lot of variation in produce did occur naturally at one point, common varieties of fruits and vegetables were selectively bred for certain characteristics whether that be yield, disease resistance, environmental adaptability, taste, color, texture, ease of harvest, or even to create seedless varieties.

The best way to differentiate cucumbers is to place them in two categories based on the use that the fruit was bred for — pickling or slicing. Pickling cucumbers have a firm texture, are short in length, and wider around. The skin is thin, usually bumpy, and lighter green in color. Pickling cucumbers also sometimes have those dark green vertical stripes that are meant to be aesthetically pleasing once pickled. Slicing cucumbers, on the other hand, are cucumbers that were bred to be eaten fresh. Slicing cucumbers are longer, have thicker skin, and are typically uniformly darker green, like the standard cucumber you would see at every supermarket.

Are there other types of cucumbers?

Pickling cucumbers are short and stubby, and slicing cucumbers are long and thick-skinned, but what about those plastic-wrapped cucumbers or little snacking cucumbers? Those belong to another category of cucumbers called burpless cucumbers.

These are varieties of slicing cucumbers that have been cultivated to have thinner skins, fewer and smaller seeds, and less of a bitter taste. These are also not-so-creatively called burpless cucumbers as they have less of the bitter chemical that can induce unpleasant gas, as the name suggests. The English cucumber, often called a seedless, hot house, or European cucumber, is sold wrapped in plastic and is an example of this type of breeding. Persian cucumbers are another example of burpless cucumbers that have been bred from slicing cucumbers.

While it may seem like the options are endless, the good news is that all cucumbers can be eaten raw and all cucumbers can be pickled. Tastes and textures can range significantly, so it is worth heading to your local farmer's market or specialty grocery store and scoping out the huge variety of cucumbers available when they are in season in the spring and summer.