A produce expert teaches us the difference between the two popular cucumbers.
I love using refreshing cucumbers in salads, quick pickles, sandwiches, and more, and I usually buy whatever looks good or is less expensive at the farmers market or grocery store.
I know I like English cucumbers and Persian cucumbers because of their thin skin, tiny seeds, juiciness, and sweet flavor, and I have noticed that a lot of recipes call for one or the other. But other than the fact that English cucumbers tend to be long, while the Persian ones are usually petite, what else makes them different?
To get to the bottom of this and to find out the best uses for each, I spoke with Kenneth Bower, Director of Merchandising at Baldor Specialty Foods. Baldor supplies retailers, restaurants, and other customers in the Northeast, and is known for sourcing excellent produce. Here's what I learned.
The Difference Between English and Persian Cucumbers
"English and Persian cucumbers both belong to the same species—Cucumis Sativus—and exhibit striking similarities while showcasing a few key distinctions," Bower says.
"Notably, English cucumbers tend to be larger, averaging around 12 inches in length, while their Persian counterparts are smaller, typically measuring about six inches. In terms of flavor, both varieties share a mild, slightly sweet taste, enhanced by their high-water content that imparts a refreshing mouthfeel and a characteristic crisp bite."
What sets both apart from slicing cucumbers—the ones with dark green, thick skin—is their thin skin and very small seeds. "Unlike slicing cucumbers, English cucumbers are thinner and boast tiny, immature seeds that are virtually imperceptible, hence earning the term 'seedless'," Bower explains. "Persian cucumbers take it a step further with even fewer seeds, rendering both options exceptionally convenient and easy to digest."
While the typical American slicing cucumber has a thick skin that can taste bitter, is often covered with wax, and is best peeled especially when served raw, neither English nor Persian cucumbers need to be peeled. Bower doesn't recommend peeling them unless a recipe specifically calls for it.
One way that you can distinguish English cucumbers and Persian cucumbers other than by size is by their packaging at the grocery store. English cucumbers are usually sold individually wrapped in plastic and Persian cucumbers are often found in plastic-wrapped packs of five or six. In my experience, Persian and English cucumbers are typically about the same price by weight.
What Are the Best Uses for English Cucumbers vs. Persian Cucumbers?
"When comparing Persian and English cucumbers, preference is often dictated by the specific culinary application," says Bower. For example, he says "something magical happens" when you combine English cucumbers and feta cheese. "The saltiness and subtle tanginess of the feta perfectly complement the refreshing coolness and natural sweetness of the cucumber, resulting in the creation of an iconic dish—the Greek salad."
He also loves English cucumbers in creamy salads with dill, as well as a salad his mother-in-law makes with English cucumbers, mustard, vinegar, heavy cream, and salt and pepper. "My five sons absolutely go bonkers for my mother-in-law's cucumber salad."
Because of their shorter length, Persian cucumbers are great for dipping and snacking, says Bowers. "They’re popular among kids for a healthy school lunch alternative," he adds. He also loves using them in spicy salads.
Can You Substitute English Cucumbers for Persian Cucumbers and Vice Versa?
Yes. "Since both are very similar in taste and texture, they can be used interchangeably," says Bowers.
The one time it's inconvenient to substitute English for Persian cucumbers is when you just need a little cucumber. For example, I prefer to keep Persian cucumbers on hand for my lunchtime salads since I'm usually only making one portion and I can use up a whole cucumber in one go.
Persian and English cucumbers are two excellent varieties of cucumbers. They both have small seeds and thin skin, so they don't need to be peeled. English cucumbers are much wider and longer than Persian cucumbers, but they both have a mild, sweet, and delicious flavor, so feel free to substitute them for each other in any recipe.
Read the original article on Simply Recipes.