Cucumbers, the skinniest member of the gourd family of portly melons, squashes, pumpkins and marrows is technically not a vegetable but fruit. Yes, it’s one of those confusing ones that you can hardly make into milkshakes (smoothies these days defy my thesis) or crumble cake, like tomatoes.
It is very low profile: no boozy cucumber granitas like with watermelon; you can hardly carve a cuke for Halloween or cook a fondue in one, viz. squash. They are mainly made of water, a wonderful non-calorie foodstuff. Annoyingly, British supermarkets insist on selling mainly the least appetising variety, the greenhouse mutant, as large as it is flavourless. Does no one ever question where the little things in jars called gherkins come from? I guess everyone thinks that’s an exotic veg not related to cucumber. To think that the Empire was built on crustless cucumber sandwiches! No wonder it is no more.
I sometimes find the medium sized cukies in the local market and stock up. Those are tasty even raw, even without salt. Because the best thing you can do with cucumbers is to smother them with salt and/or vinegar. Yes, gherkins actually ARE cucumbers.
Tzatziki are shredded, salted, squeezed and yoghurted cucumbers. Saure Gurken get semi-cooked, semi-pickled in a salty solution and are the most fantastic companion to Bratwurst and beer. Gherkins – we’ve been there: vinegar, dill, mustard seeds and a slice of onion; raclette wouldn’t be as tasty without them. And these are Chinese smashed cukes, a popular snack sold there from street stalls and served as a side with spicier food.
Considering the method, it’s also a constructive way of letting off steam: smash‘em! Nuke the cukes?!