The Difference Between Cucumber And Zucchini

When placed side by side, sometimes it is hard to tell them apart.

Long and green. Hails from the gourd family. Treated as a vegetable– even though technically a fruit. Cucumber or zucchini? How about both? These two plants are frequently confused with each other, especially when they are placed side by side in the vegetable bins at the grocery store, but they both have distinctive characteristics and uses.

zucchini and cucumber
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How Are Cucumbers and Zucchini Different?

Let's get the technical stuff out of the way first: The cucumber, cultivated in many parts of the world and eaten as a vegetable, has a cylindrical shape with dark green skin and pale flesh. Cucumber plants (Latin name cucumis sativus) are members of the gourd family, which are together also known as cucurbitaceae.

Similar to the cucumber, zucchini is also cylindrical, dark green on the outside, and pale on the inside. The zucchini plant is also a type of gourd, but of the species cucurbita pepo—the same as pumpkins and squashes. Zucchinis are a type of summer squash, harvested while they are young so the skin is still tender and edible.

Types of Cucumbers

Popular cucumber varieties include English cucumbers, which typically come wrapped in plastic at the grocery store; the stout, bumpy skinned Kirbys which are great for pickling; the even smaller Gherkins which are most commonly pickled and served on a relish tray or skewered and served in a Bloody Mary; and the Garden cucumber, the standard grocery store variety. This type is usually coated in a layer of wax to prevent bruising and loss of moisture, so be sure to either scrub or peel before eating.

How To Use a Cucumber

Cucumbers are almost always eaten raw, in dishes such as salads, sandwiches, or on a crudité tray with a dip and other cut, fresh vegetables. Cucumber salads will include other produce such as tomatoes, peppers, avocados, and onions, and a dressing of olive oil with vinegar or lemon juice. Some varieties are ideal for pickling, but cucumbers are rarely cooked, except in some Asian stir-fries. You can also infuse a pitcher of water with sliced cucumber for a cool, summertime beverage.

How To Use a Zucchini

While zucchini can be eaten raw, it is usually cooked, which brings out the sweet, mild flavor of the vegetable. Serve these crispy baked zucchini fries to kick off a meal or as part of an appetizer spread, or saute them for a quick, healthy side dish. You can also bake zucchini in sweet treats, such as quick breads and cakes.

One bite of these perfectly fried Zucchini Straws and we guarantee that you'll be hooked. All you need are some ingredients from the pantry and fresh zucchini. This recipe is great for using up any extra garden produce.

How To Store Cucumber and Zucchini

Cucumbers are sensitive to temperatures below 50°F and should be stored at room temperature – not in the refrigerator. Stored below 50°F, they're prone to developing "chilling injuries," including water-soaked areas, pitting, and accelerated decay. If you insist on keeping your cukes in the refrigerator, limit it to no more than three days and eat them as soon as possible.

Zucchini will stay fresh for four or five days if you store it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper drawer. Do not wash the zucchini until just before you are ready to use it. If you notice the zucchini wilting, use it immediately.

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  1. University of Florida Extension. Greenhouse Cucumber Production--Florida Greenhouse Vegetable Production Handbook, Vol. 3.

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