Cucumbers have been around for thousands of years and may have originated in Egypt. The sleek green-skinned cylindrical-shaped fruits are refreshing on a hot summer day in salads, pureed into soups or offered in a drink. While most people are familiar with 6- to 8-inch-long green cucumbers, there are also round and yellow varieties, and other types that grow seedless up to 18 inches long or as tiny as 2 inches long. If cucumbers give you digestive trouble, find substitutes for their crunch, taste, flavor and scent.
Cucumbers have a crunch that adds interest to a salad or sandwich. Celery has that same crunch. Peel the celery with a vegetable peeler to get rid of the strings. Use the light-green inner stalks, which have a less pronounced celery flavor. Cut them in thin slices. Jicama has a mildly sweet flavor and lots of crunch. Peel, then slice jicama thinly as you did for the celery.
Sweet and sour pickles, and bread and butter pickles are milder than dill pickles. They retain their cucumber taste. If possible, use fresh-packed pickles found in the refrigerator cases rather than on the shelves. Fresh-packed varieties have not been exposed to as much heat processing as unrefrigerated pickles, so the taste is fresher, crunchier and more cucumber-like. Rinse the pickles to get rid of some of the vinegar flavor. Green beans have a subtle cucumber taste, as does barely ripe honeydew melon. The leaves of borage, an herb with a dark blue flower, taste like cucumber.
Young zucchini look like cucumbers. Leave the skin on but remove the seeds by halving them and scraping them out with a spoon. Yellow crookneck squash resembles cucumber if you peel the skin and then cube it. Neither tastes like cucumber, but when they are raw, they don’t have an overwhelming characteristic flavor of their own. Zucchini and crookneck squash slices substitute for cucumber slices when used as the base for appetizers. For example, a dab of salmon mousse garnished with a baby shrimp and a sprig of dill placed on a slice of zucchini is a one- or two-bite appetizer.
Cucumber has a fresh scent. If you’d like that scent but not the mess of cutting the cucumbers, use essential oil. Cucumber essential oil is extracted from the seeds of the cucumber and has that same fresh scent. Use it in potpourris, room sprays and homemade lotions and potions instead of pureed cucumber.
References and ResourcesGourmet Sleuth: Cucumber
The Cook's Thesaurus: Cucumber
My Aromatherapy Oil: Cucumber Essential Oil