Deliciously crisp, healthy cucumbers are one of the first summer vegetables ready for garden harvest. Though you might have to brush aside prickly leaves to uncover your ripe cucumbers, the brief irritation is worth it for that cool, crunchy cuke (and you can always wear gloves to protect your hands from the prickles).

Cucumber types

Slicing cucumbers (left) are long, dark green and relatively smooth. Pickling cucumbers (right) are short, light green and more prickly.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

Refrigerator pickles

Refrigerator pickles are quick and easy to make. When the pickles are gone, just add more sliced cucumbers to the remaining liquid.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

Dill pickles

Delicious dill pickles are a little more work than the refrigerator kind, but will last even longer in your cupboards.

Photo Credit: Megan Bame

Cucumbers are thought to have originated in southern Asia and have long been grown for food, as well as a skin-healing agent. As a food, the veggie is largely water, giving it that cool refreshing taste, but it also contains vitamin C and fiber (in the peel). From a skin-care perspective, cucumbers are most often thought of for topical use to reduce swelling, typically for bags under the eyes or mild burns. The ascorbic acid and caffeic acid found in cucumbers give these remedies scientific backbone. Eating cucumbers can also be good for your complexion. They’re natural hydrators, and they contain silica – an essential component of healthy connective tissues.

In general, there two categories of cucumbers: the slicing type and the pickling type. Slicing cucumbers include varieties like Long Green and burpless. These long, dark green yummies have relatively smooth skin, and they grow anywhere from 6-12 inches long. Then there are the pickling cucumbers. These short, light green veggies have rather bumpy or prickly skin. Pickling cucumbers are harvested when they’re just 3-4 inches long. (If you miss one while you’re picking, it won’t get longer – just fatter.) These small wonders are ideal for making pickles.

No matter which type you’re growing in your garden, it’s important to store them right once you pick them. Cucumbers can be kept fresh for several days if stored in the refrigerator. Early season cucumbers are the best for fresh consumption, as the heat of summer may result in an undesirable, bitter taste.

While I prefer my cucumbers sliced and salted, most cucumbers are eaten as pickles. This recipe for refrigerator pickles is quick and easy to make and is a delicious summertime snack that’s not only good – it’s good for you!

Refrigerator Pickles

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon celery seed
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup white vinegar

Mix pickling solution together in a medium to large sealable bowl.

  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • Cucumbers, unpeeled, sliced

Add vegetables to pickling mixture and stir. Use as many cucumbers as you desire, as long as the slices don’t pile up above the liquid. Cover bowl and refrigerate.

Rather than make a new batch every time the pickles are eaten, simply add more vegetables to the remaining liquid. It’ll keep for months – so you can enjoy your cucumbers long after harvest!