Cucumbers belong to the gourd family, also known as cucurbits, which includes squash, pumpkins, zucchinis, gherkins and melons. They are classified into two main types which include pickling and slicing varieties. Picklers are shorter, less regularly shaped cucumbers with thick bumpy skin and are perfect for their primary use, which is pickling.
Slicing types of cucumbers are grown in fields or greenhouses. The most common slicing variety in Canada is the long English cucumber which are greenhouse grown. They are commonly wrapped in plastic to help retain moisture and while the mini-seedless variety come in bags or flats.
How to Buy:
Cucumbers can be very sensitive to heat, so choose those displayed in refrigerated cases in the market. They should be bright medium to dark green with even colour, firm, and rounded at their edges. Avoid cucumbers that are wrinkled at their tips, yellow, puffy, or have soft spots.
How to Store:
Cucumbers will keep for several days in the refrigerator. Leave the wrapping on until you’re ready to eat as this will help seal in moisture. Wash right before eating.
Cucumbers do not freeze well.
How to Prepare:
Because both the cucumber skin and seeds are nutrient-rich, with each containing unique phytonutrients of its own, they are most nutritious when left intact prior to slicing or dicing. Thoroughly wash the whole cucumber under cool running water while gently scrubbing with a natural bristle brush.
Then slice, dice, julienne or cube and eat fresh, add to salads or make your own fresh pickle.
How They Are Grown:
Cucumbers grow on vines and one vine has large yellow flowers that can be both male and female. Once pollinated, these flowers grow into the vegetable. Canadian slicing cucumbers are grown in the summer in open fields but also in greenhouses that provide protection from cold winters and allow access to fresh cucumbers all year long. Greenhouse vegetable production is centred in Ontario and Quebec and a large portion of Canadian cucumbers are exported to other markets.
The seeds are started in a propagation greenhouse and then moved to a production greenhouse once they reach a certain size. Outside cucumber vines grow along the ground but in greenhouses they train the vines upwards so that they hang vertically. This makes the cucumbers easier to see and harvest and gives the growers better access to the small planter boxes to add nutrients and water.
Greenhouses provide a protected controlled environment that can optimize vegetable production. They allow growers to monitor and manage nutrients, water and C02 levels to help the cucumbers reach optimal size while minimizing inputs and carbon footprint. This keeps the cost down for the consumer and provides Canadians access to local fresh vegetables all year long. However, the one thing growers cannot replicate efficiently is sunlight. So, greenhouse cucumbers grown over the fall and winter months take a few days longer to mature than cucumbers grown during the sunny summer months.
Slicing cucumbers are picked by hand in the field and greenhouse by skilled workers who cut them from the vine. This reduces damage to the thin skins and ensures quality. They are then washed, graded for size and quality, plastic wrapped and cooled before being shipped to the grocery store.
Pickling cucumbers have thicker skins and are harvested at a smaller size from the field by machines.
Canadian Crop is Available:
Field: June to early September
Grown in: Ontario (65%), Quebec (30%),
For More Information:
- Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association
- BC Greenhouse Growers Association
- Okanagan Grown
- Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association
- Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers
- Red Hat Co-Op
- Association des producteurs maraichers du Quebec
- les Producteurs en Serre du Quebec
- Quebec Federation of Producers of Processing Fruits and Vegetables