Cucumbers make tasty salsas, salads, and pickles

Plate of sliced cucumbers with overlaying text of "Cucumbers: From pickles to salads to sandwich toppers to dippers." Photographs show a young Asian holding a cucumber, a pregnant women slicing cucumbers, and an African American father and child holding cucumbers on a cutting board
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Is it a zucchini or a cucumber? I get this question almost every time I talk with kids about that long, green vegetable. (They do have some similarities. It would be easy to confuse.)

If you garden, cucumbers seem to keep coming and growing and expanding across the soil! So, when you are ready to eat, know you can do a lot with a cucumber. From pickles to salads and from sandwich toppers to dippers, cucumbers can be used in many ways.

Nutritionally, 1 cup of sliced cucumbers contains around 15 calories, 4g carbohydrate, and is a source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K and potassium. Cucumbers contain almost no fat, protein, fiber, or sodium.

  • Buy: Look for firm cucumbers with an even green color. Avoid cucumbers with soft spots, yellow skin, or bulging middles, which can indicate watery flesh or large seeds. If buying pickles, look for reduced sodium varieties. But do not reduce sodium when making your own pickles, unless the recipe is tested.
  • Price: Raw cucumbers cost $1.26 per pound on average, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • Store: Cucumbers can be stored in the refrigerator in a bag or covered container for up to a week. If buying cucumbers without wax, such as from your local farmers market, know they may start to decay or dry out faster than waxed varieties.
  • Prepare: Wash cucumbers well and cut off both ends. Then cut into desired size pieces.
  • Preserve: While cucumbers do not freeze well, pickling is a popular way to preserve them. Check out the refrigerator pickle recipe in this post. And try Fresh Dill Cucumber Relish or Quick Fresh-Pack Dill Pickles from the National Center for Home Food Preservation that are tested for canning.
  • Eat: Cucumbers can be eaten cooked or raw, although most recipes will use them raw. 
White bowl of salsa sits on white place surrounded by corn tortilla chips

Strawberry Cucumber Salsa  Print recipe | Watch video
serves 18

Glass canning jar holds slices of cucumbers sitting in pickling brine. Jar sits on a metal surface with a wood background.

Refrigerator Pickle Chips  | Print recipe
serves 16

Tabbouleh salad sits inside lettuce leaves on a rectangular white platter. Platter is decorated with slices of lemon and tomato. Background is a blue placemat.

Tabbouleh Salad | Print recipe
serves 8

References:

  • University of Illinois Extension, Illinois Vegetable Garden Guide, Cucumbers, N/D
  • Purdue Extension, Food Link, Cucumber, N/D
  • University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Vegetables and Fruits for Health, Cucumbers, 2008
  • University of Lincoln-Nebraska Extension, Cucumber, N/D
  • National Center for Home Food Preservation, How Do I…Pickle?, N/D
  • United States Department of Agriculture, FoodData Central

 

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Post originally published in 2016; content updated in 2022.

 

Healthy Eats and Repeat
How much difference is there between canned and frozen foods? How should you cook venison? When is the best time to buy avocados? Get answers to these questions as well as other tips, tutorials and recipes for common kitchen foods and items with University of Illinois Extension Nutrition & Wellness Educator Caitlin Mellendorf’s blog Healthy Eats and Repeat. Build your best life. Trust Extension to help.

Caitlin Mellendorf is an Illinois Extension Nutrition and Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon and Piatt Counties in Central Illinois. She is a Registered Dietitian and her work focuses on helping community members gain the knowledge, skills and tools to live healthier, more nutritious lifestyles. This includes providing programs and answering questions about heart health, diabetes, food safety, food preservation, grocery shopping and cooking. You can reach Caitlin by email at chuth2@illinois.edu or call 217.877.6042. Check out her nutrition blog Healthy Eats and Repeats for seasonal recipes and of an exploration of common kitchen foods.