With 96 per cent water, the highest content of any vegetable, cucumbers are designed to keep us cool in the height of summer and they are ready for the picking now. Cucumbers may be much loved in traditional bread and butter pickles and thinly sliced in a classic English sandwich, but the truth is they make many people burp. Deseeding them is thought to help avoid this as is prudent slicing – most of the bitter, burp-causing chemical, cucurbitacin, lives in the stem end so allow a little wastage if you are one of those affected. Salads aside, there’s lots of good eating in the humble cucumber.
Cucumber becomes silky when cooked. Peel it in alternating strips if you wish. To stir-fry, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Cut flesh into 1cm strips on the bias, sprinkle with salt and leave to sit for 20 minutes to draw out excess moisture. Rinse well, pat dry and add to your oil-slicked wok with garlic, ginger, a little sugar and chilli flakes. Stir-fry, adding a little water or chicken stock, for a few minutes. Finish with a few drops of sesame oil. Or try your cuke sliced into batons in a curry.
Sometimes sautéed, other times chopped raw, and often combined in a blender with avocado, crème fraiche or yoghurt, cucumber makes a refreshing cold soup for a hot day. Top with a few prawns if you’re feeling fancy.
Cut into ribbons or slices and then dropped into white wine vinegar with salt and sugar, these speedy condiments will uplift a summery meal. With a handful of dill, they work a treat with salmon; with star anise, ginger and chilli they’re great with Asian-style food. With mustard, fennel seeds and peppercorns, they make a burger sing. Always store in the fridge.