6 tasty ways to use cucumbers

Cucumbers are popular worldwide, having first been grown over 3,000 years ago. They complement tons of flavours and give a satisfying crunch to many different dishes.

Mini cucumbers on a plate

In UK shops you’ll often only see fresh English cucumbers. But there are different varieties of cucumber – including garden, lemon, Persian and gherkins. The size, appearance, shape and skin texture of a cucumber varies depending on its type.

Is a cucumber a fruit?

Botanically speaking, a cucumber is a fruit. Many people think of a cucumber as a vegetable because we usually categorise the savoury plants we eat as vegetables and sweeter plants as fruits. 

Cucumber belongs to the same plant family as watermelon, pumpkin and courgette. In botany, a fruit forms within a flower and enables the plant to reproduce. A cucumber is this fruit – it forms near the stem and pushes the flower petals to the end of the fruit. Seeds grow inside the cucumber, allowing the next generation of plants to be cultivated.

When are cucumbers in season?

Cucumbers ripen from mid-summer to mid-autumn – usually from around July to October in the UK. They sometimes experience a shorter season outdoors, depending on the weather. 

Can you cook cucumbers?

Yes, you can cook with cucumbers. 

You probably know cucumbers make pretty much any cold salad taste better. But don’t shy away from cooked cucumber recipes too. Cucumbers heat up just as nicely as courgettes in a stir fry, or sliced and sauteed on their own – as we’ve shown in the recipes below.

What to do with cucumbers

The mild, fresh flavour of cucumbers makes them very versatile in the kitchen. Here are our favourite unusual cucumber recipes to shake things up using this amazing fruit

Stir fried cucumber

Slice 2 cucumbers in half lengthways, then cut them into 2cm slices. Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and mix well. Put the slices into a colander, and let them sit and drain for 20 mins. 

Rinse them in water and blot dry with kitchen roll. Heat a wok over high heat until it’s hot, then add 1 tbsp vegetable oil. When the oil is very hot and slightly smoking, add 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger and 2 tbsp finely sliced spring onions. Stir-fry for about 30 secs. 

Add the cucumber mixture, plus 1 tbsp garlic sauce (or 2 peeled garlic cloves), 2 tsp chilli oil, 2 tsp salt, ½ tsp black pepper and 2 tsp sugar. Stir for another 30 secs and combine everything well. Add 120ml water and continue to stir-fry for 3-4 mins on a high heat, until most of the water has evaporated. Add 2 tsp sesame oil and garnish with fresh coriander, then serve. 

(via Great British Chefs)

Pickled cucumber

Run a fork downwards through the surface of 1 cucumber. Cut the cucumber into thin slices and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and mix well. Leave the cucumber for 10 mins then rinse with cold water. Drain off excess liquid in a colander and return the cucumber to the large bowl. 

Grate 3 inches fresh root ginger and cut 4 sugary stem ginger into thin slices. Combine the ginger with 50g sugar and 60ml white vinegar. Tip over the cucumber slices and mix well. Decant into a sealable container and refrigerate for a few hours before serving. Serve in a sandwich or burger. 

Peach, peanut & cucumber salad

On a chopping board, slice a large cucumber in half lengthways, then into 6cm chunks. Lightly bruise the flesh with a rolling pin or flat side of a knife. Place the pieces in a colander over a mixing bowl, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and refrigerate for 20 mins. 

To make the dressing, place 120g of smooth peanut butter in a mixing bowl. Add 3 tbsp of tahini paste, 1 tbsp of soy sauce, 1 tsp of sesame oil, 2 tbsp of rice wine vinegar and the juice of 1 lime. Finely chop ½ a medium chilli and add to the dressing, then stir in 3 tbsp of boiling water. Set aside. 

Cut 2 peaches in half and remove the stones. Cut each half into 4 thin slices and put in a mixing bowl. Roughly chop 70g salted, roasted cashews and add to the mixing bowl. Chop 2 handfuls of coriander leaves and 1 handful of mint leaves, then toss into the bowl. 

Remove the cucumber from the fridge and combine gently with the peaches and peanut butter dressing. Dress with more nuts or leaves as desired, then serve. 

(via The Guardian)

Late summer cucumber soup

Chop 1 cucumber and 1 medium potato into chunks. Slice 4-5 large spring onions, and separate and tear the leaves of 1 lettuce. In a medium saucepan on a low heat, melt 1 heaped tsp butter or vegan spread. Add the vegetables, stir and cover with a lid for 10 mins. 

Pour in 850ml vegetable stock, season with salt and pepper, and stir a couple of times. Bring it back to a gentle simmer and put the lid back on. Simmer for 20 mins, then purée the soup in a blender. Make sure the blades catch all of the cucumber. Reheat gently and serve by swirling in 1 tbsp double cream (or plant-based version) and sprinkling over a few chives. 

Mint and cucumber cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C and line a 12-cup muffin tray. Slice ½ a cucumber lengthways and cut into chunks. Purée in a blender until smooth. Add a handful of fresh mint leaves and 1 tbsp lemon juice, then blend again until smooth. 

Put 115g softened butter (or vegan spread), 150g granulated sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract in a large bowl. Whisk together for a few mins, until light and fluffy. Add 2 eggs (or 6 tbsp aquafaba), one at a time, beating them in well. 

Stir in 50g self-raising flour and a pinch of salt, then pour in 1/3 of the cucumber mix. Repeat this step two more times, until all combined. Bake in the oven for 12-15 mins, until an inserted skewer comes out clean. 

Allow to slightly cool in the tin, then place on a wire rack to completely cool. In the meantime, make the icing. Add 75g softened butter (or vegan spread), 150g powdered icing sugar, ½ tsp rose water and 1 tbsp milk (or plant-based milk) to a bowl. Beat the ingredients together until smooth and fluffy. Add more milk if needed to create a consistency for frosting. Keep in the fridge, then, when ready, ice the cupcakes. 

Cucumber tabbouleh salad

Mix 1 tbsp bulgur wheat with 2 tbsp warm water and set aside for 30 mins. Cut 1 tomato and 1 small cucumber into very small pieces. Chop 90g parsley and 5 tbsp mint into very small pieces. Place the vegetables and herbs in a bowl and mix well. 

Add the bulgur and mix again. Then add 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper and mix well. Place in a large piece of lettuce to serve. 

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