Cucumbers: picking, selecting, storing
24 Oct 2013 09.56 am by Renny Wijeyamohan
Cucumbers are the Spider Man of the fruit world. Talented climbers they use a network of creeping vines and grasping tendrils to grow in almost any space. This means that they’re a great crop to grow even if you have a small garden. Latticed walls, fences, stakes and trellises allow cucumbers to grow upwards if you don’t have the room to let them sprawl through your garden horizontally. Cucumbers are a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Potassium. And although they are technically a fruit, cucumbers are usually considered and prepared as a vegetable.
Colouration and size are the prime indicators for when a cucumber is ready to be picked. Look out for when the cucumber is a uniform green – if it has become yellow then chances are it’s past its prime and may be tough and bitter tasting. Depending on what variety of cucumber you’re growing, size may also be a useful signpost for harvest. Slicing cucumbers should be picked when they are between 13 to 18cm long (approx 6 to 8 inches), Kirby should be picked when they are between 9cm to 13cm (approx 4 to 6 inches) while Gherkins should be picked at around 5cm (4 inches).
To pick a cucumber use a knife, secateurs or a pair of scissors and cut just above the stem of the vegetable. Pulling should be avoided, because some cucumbers don’t snap easily at the stem and this could damage either your vine or trellised set up.
When selecting a cucumber – identify one that is fully green. Even a little yellowing at the base of a cucumber means it’s ripened too much. Grasp it in your hand and press down slightly with your fingers. A ripe cucumber should feel firm and crisp.
Cucumbers are 90% water so while they won’t last for long outside the refrigerator, chilling them can also cause cold injuries like water soaking and decay. The University of California, Davis recommends avoiding storing cucumbers at temperatures below 10°C (or 50°F). So if you’re dead set on putting your cucumbers in the fridge, keep them in the warmest part and away from the chiller. Refrigerated cucumbers will last about a week as opposed to 2-3 days on the benchtop.
Since they’re almost entirely water, it’s not a good idea to freeze cucumbers. As the moisture inside the cucumber freezes and expands it will affect the soft and crunchy texture, cause cold injuries and detract from overall flavour. When refrigerating your cucumbers make sure you wrap them in plastic or keep them in a plastic bag. This will ensure that they retain as much moisture as possible. A handy tip to slow down decay is to wrap each cucumber in a piece of paper towel, this will help absorb any excess moisture that seeps out and soak up that slimey “juice” that can form at the bottom of your refrigerator vegetable drawer.
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