Eating English Cucumbers Without Peeling Them
While loose cucumbers at the supermarket are often sold with a waxy protective coating, English cucumbers are usually untreated and unprocessed, leaving their skins edible and clean. The choice of whether or not to peel an English cucumber isn't just a matter of saving time: Some people like to eat English cucumber skins because they add color, texture and fiber. English cucumber skin also tends to be free of the bitterness characteristic of the skin of slicing cucumbers. It's best to choose organic English cucumbers if you don't intend to peel them. Pesticides tend to collect on the skins of vegetables, so the peels of English cucumbers that are organically grown will be free of unwanted chemicals.
Shrink-Wrapped English Cucumbers
When you buy an English cucumber at the grocery store, it will often be protected by plastic shrink wrap because the peel is prone to growing moldy. Before buying, check to make sure no mold is starting to grow underneath the shrink wrap. If you aren't planning to use the entire cucumber at once, peel only as much as you're going to use right away. Even though the cucumber is wrapped in plastic, you can still check for freshness by squeezing the tips, which will start to soften once the cucumber is past its prime.
Garden-Grown and Farmers Market English Cucumbers
Of course, the English cucumbers you grow in your own garden don't come shrink wrapped. They won't be immune from their mold-growing tendency, but they'll come to your kitchen much fresher than the English cucumbers in your neighborhood supermarket. Similarly, English cucumbers available at local farmers markets are often (but not always) sold unwrapped. Either wrap your garden or farmers market English cucumbers, or, even better, eat them while they're optimally fresh.
Nutritional and Culinary Benefits
The skin of an English cucumber is higher in fiber than the softer inner flesh, which is mostly made up of water. Cucumber skin is also rich in essential phytonutrients and magnesium. English cucumber skin adds extra texture to salads, providing chewiness to complement the vegetable's characteristic crunchiness. The skin also has a deeper, darker shade of green along with the pale green of the cucumber's flesh, for added visual appeal in a salad.
Devra Gartenstein is a self-taught professional cook who has authored two cookbooks: "The Accidental Vegan", and "Local Bounty: Seasonal Vegan Recipes". She founded Patty Pan Cooperative, Seattle's oldest farmers market concession, and teaches regular cooking classes.