Incredibly, there are really very few varieties of cucumbers and this article points that out quite well. The Japanese variety, by the way, is awesome.
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The different cucumber varieties include the gherkin, the English cucumber, and the Japanese cucumber. Cucumbers that are commonly used in salads or otherwise eaten raw are simply known as slicing cucumbers. Pickling cucumbers are used to make pickles, though some can also be eaten raw. The different varieties differ in size, shape, and taste.
Slicing cucumber varieties include the salad bush and Dasher cucumbers. Usually, slicing cucumbers are about 8 inches (20 cm) long and 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. Some may have a coating of wax applied to their skin to keep them fresh on the store shelves. These cucumbers usually have large seeds in the center that may have a bitter taste.
Not all types of slicing cucumbers have a waxed skin. If the skin of a cucumber isn't waxed, it is edible. Many people find the skin to be bitter, though, and peel slicing cucumbers even if they are unwaxed.
Other common cucumber varieties include the English and Japanese. These cucumbers are sometimes referred to as burpless cucumbers, because the flesh and skin lack the chemical compounds that causes gas and burps in some people. Seeds are less noticeable in English and Japanese cucumbers, and these varieties tend to be longer and slimmer than the standard slicing cucumber varieties. In the store, these cucumbers may be tightly wrapped in plastic instead of coated in wax.
Pickling cucumbers include the gherkin, the Kirby, and the cornichon. Both gherkin and cornichon varieties are small, usually around 3 inches (7 cm) long and an inch (2.54 cm) thick. Compared to burpless and other slicing cucumbers, the skin of pickling cucumbers is very rough and bumpy.
Kirby cucumbers are slightly larger than other pickling varieties. A person can eat a Kirby as he would a slicing cucumber, raw. The cucumbers can also be soaked in brine and fermented to produce pickles. Kirby cucumbers have thin skin and not many seeds.
Less common types of cucumber include the Armenian, or snake cucumber, and the lemon cucumber. Both of these varieties are less bitter than standard slicing cucumbers. A person can eat all parts of a snake cucumber, as the skin is left unwaxed. Snake and lemon cucumbers typically have a mild flavor, which is more appealing to some people. Although the snake cucumber won't hold up to pickling, a lemon cucumber can be either eaten raw or pickled.
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