Why English Cucumbers Are Wrapped in Plastic, But Regular Ones Aren’t

Even beyond their packaging, there are plenty of differences between English and field cukes.

Have you ever wondered why one specific type of produce, the English cucumber, is packaged differently from almost every other fruit or vegetable in a grocery store? Or why these coddled cukes can cost four times as much as their counterparts? There’s a good reason for it, and once you’re in the know, you might change which variety you reach for in the produce aisle.

English cucumbersBrent Hofacker / Shutterstock.com

What is an English Cucumber?

English cucumbers are sweet, slender, straight and have fewer, less noticeable seeds than many other cucumbers. You’ll also see them called greenhouse cucumbers, hot house cucumbers, European cucumbers and seedless cucumbers.

English cucumbers are about a 14 inches (35 centimetres) long and about 1-1/2 to 2 inches (4 to 5 centimetres) in diameter. They’re grown off the ground, hanging or on a trellis, to get their characteristic shape. They’re also self-pollinating, which allows them to be grown indoors in greenhouses because they don’t need bees, animals or wind to help them produce seeds and fruit.

English Cucumber vs Cucumber

The American slicing cucumber is your standard field cucumber in North America. Compared to an English cucumber, its skin is darker and thicker and its seeds are larger and more plentiful. It’s usually a few inches shorter and may be closer to 2-1/2 inches (5 centimetres) in diameter. It’s a plumper, sturdier fruit.

An American cucumber tends to have smoother skin, while an English cuke’s skin may be more furrowed. However, you don’t need to peel or seed an English cucumber, whereas you’ll usually want to take these extra steps with a field cucumber to improve the flavour and texture of your dish. These differences help explain why it can be worthwhile to pay more for an English cucumber, especially if you’re highlighting the ingredient in cucumber recipes like tea sandwiches.

Some people also find field cucumbers hard to digest, hence the term “burpless” for English cucumbers.

English cucumbers wrapped in plasticKristi Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

Why Are English Cucumbers Wrapped in Plastic?

The quickest way to identify an English cucumber at the grocery store is by its shrink wrap. These thin-skinned fruits need the extra protection of plastic so they don’t get bruised or dried out in transit. Tender skin is one of the reasons English cucumbers are less bitter than other varieties. And the plastic is in lieu of the wax coating you’ll often find on field cukes.

Next, find out why maple syrup bottles have those tiny handles.

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Originally Published on Taste of Home