Cucumbers are popular for raw consumption as well as pickling. A member of the gourd family, cucumbers are grown on vines beneath a canopy of leaves. Most varieties are best eaten when green, before they become ripe. A ripe cucumber turns orange or yellow and takes on a bitter taste. Cucumbers are known as a healthy vegetable because in addition to containing fiber through their seeds and skin, they are made from 90 percent water. Many varieties of cucumbers exist which boast different qualities and are good for different purposes.
Measure the length of the cucumber. Armenian cucumbers are longer than most other varieties. English cucumbers are also long, but are usually slightly shorter than Armenian cucumbers. Garden cucumbers, which are the most common variety in North America, are usually shorter than both Armenian and English varieties. Kirby cucumbers are noticeably shorter than almost all other types of cucumbers.
Examine the thickness of the cucumber. Armenian cucumbers are thinner than most. English cucumbers are also thin but are often slightly thicker than Armenian cucumbers. Garden cucumbers are often thicker than Armenian and English cucumbers. Kirby cucumbers are thicker than other varieties.
Inspect the color of the cucumber. Armenian cucumbers vary between dark green, light green, and yellow-green. English cucumbers are almost always dark green. Garden cucumbers have a dark green skin that can be differentiated from Armenian and English cucumbers because it is very smooth and has very few small bumps or spines. Kirby cucumbers range from completely yellow to dark green.
Pay attention to the taste of the cucumber. Armenian cucumbers have a sweet taste. English cucumbers have a very mild flavor that is almost undetectable. Garden cucumbers have a mild taste but their skin is often bitter. Kirby cucumbers have a strong and distinct flavor that can be sweet or tangy.
Examine the skin and, if available, the seeds of a cucumber. Armenian cucumbers have a very thin skin and small, soft transparent seeds. English cucumbers also have a very thin skin and, while their seeds are larger, there are often very few of them. Garden cucumbers have a thick skin and their seeds are not noticeable. Kirby cucumbers have a skin that is bumpier than other varieties and their seeds are often undetectable.