Spicy Cucumber Salad

“It’s funny how cucumber water can taste so much better than pickle juice, even though they come from the same source.” ~ Ellen DeGeneres


Late cukes from my garden

Late cukes from my garden

Cucumber season is rapidly drawing to a close here in Northcentral Ohio but I still have quite a few on the vine and several in the refrigerator. I hate to see them go to waste. I don’t grow pickling cukes.

When I was growing up Mom made a bowl of sliced cucumber and sliced onion with vinegar, diluted with water, and seasoned with salt and pepper. This is still my usual go-to recipe when my cukes are abundant.

There are tons of cold cucumber salads recipes on-line, some with creamy cheese, and I found a roasted cucumber recipe. I don’t think I’ll be roasting any time soon because I like my cukes fresh and crisp.


The first cucumbers probably originated in Western Asia, most likely in India. Cucumbers are mentioned in the legend of a Uruk king who lived 2500 BCE in what is now Iraq and Kuwait. About 800 or 900 AD cucumbers were being cultivated in Europe, and appeared in North America in the 1500s.

Today Florida and California supply the US with cucumbers from March through November. Cucumbers in stores during winter come mostly from Mexico. I don’t eat cucumbers in the winter. Cucumbers are a summer crop and by the time my vines have stopped producing I’ve had enough. In addition, I don’t want to eat anything that has traveled so far.


Surprisingly for such a watery fruit (yes, cukes are fruit) cucumbers supply a wide variety of fat-soluble vitamins, including Vitamin K. As a member of the Cucurbitacease family which includes melons and squashes, cucumbers supply phytonutrients called cucurbitacins. They also contain vitamins A, B, C, D, and E.

Cucumbers are a good source of minerals including molybdenum, copper, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium, as well as some B vitamins.

They are also a good source of flavonoids which have antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties depending on their chemical structure.

Cucumbers contain lignans that may help regulate hormone levels and support the immune system.


Cucumbers come in a variety of colors and shapes. There is more to the world of cucumbers than the dark green tubes we’re familiar with. In specialty markets and farmers markets you might find white, yellow, or orange cukes that may be short, oval or round. I used to buy lemon cucumbers at the Hollywood Farmers Market in Portland. They look like lemons in color and shape and have a faint lemony taste.


There are hundreds of different varieties of cukes divided into two types: slicing and pickling. Slicing cukes are grown for eating fresh. Pickling cukes are grown for preserving as pickles.

Pickles can be either fermented or non-fermented which are preserved with vinegar and are called quick-brined. Fermented pickles are preserved through a microbial fermentation process that produces lactic acid. This means they contain important microbes that are essential for human health.

Fermented pickles are more expensive to buy. If you have the time, you can make your own. Here is a site that is all about fermentation

Growing your own

Always buy seeds from a reputable source. Buy from a trusted local seed company, or get recommendations from a gardener. There are many seed companies on-line. The best ones will have knowledgeable people you can actually talk to. Talk to venders at farmers markets. Ask a lot of questions. Take a master gardener class through your local university extension service.

prepper cucumber slices

prepped cucumber slices


Spicy Cucumber Salad

This recipe is slightly modified from Chinese Meatless Cooking by Stella Lau Fessler first published in 1980 and still available at Amazon. I’ve been using this cookbook for decades to make authentic Chinese food without meat.

Prep time: 10 minutes to prep the cukes, then 1 hour standing

For the salad: 10 minutes, then 3 hours or overnight to marinate

Serves: 2


1 large or 2 small cucumbers

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon soy sauce (preferably fermented)

½ tablespoon vinegar (preferably unpastaurized)

½ teaspoon cane sugar

2 teaspoons garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon your favorite hot sauce

1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns*

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil (preferably organic)


  1. Cut off the stem end of the cucumber(s) and slice in half length-wise. Remove seeds with a spoon. Cut the halves into ¼ inch slices. Sprinkle with the salt tossing thoroughly. Place in a non-reactive bowl like stainless or glass. Let stand for 1 hour to draw off some of the moisture.
  2. Rinse with cold water, drain, and pat dry with a towel. Combine the slices with the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, garlic, hot sauce, peppercorns, and oil.
  3. Marinate for at least 3 hours or overnight covered in the refrigerator.

* You can find Szechuan peppercorns in Asian grocery stores. It is not a pepper but the outer husks of the prickly-ash shrub. It is fragrant and can produce a numbing sensation around the mouth. I’ve never felt that. You can make this dish without Szechuan peppercorns, it just won’t taste the same.

Author:Sharon Reese

Lacto-ovo vegetarian for over four decades.

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I will be pleased to hear from you. I’ll try to answer questions you might have about cooking or nutrition.

2 Responses to “Spicy Cucumber Salad”

  1. Joy Morgan
    January 1, 2015 at 7:48 pm #

    I have used a similar recipe for cucumber salad, but it doesn’t involve letting them rest to reduce the moisture. Is that necessary? It also uses honey instead of sugar and no garlic. I think I will add at least the garlic next time I make it, but since I can’t handle very spice food, I’ll probably leave off the hot sauce and peppercorns.

  2. Sharon Reese
    January 2, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

    I’ve tried it without the salting step and prefer to salt (when I have time) because the fruit can absorb more of the flavors with some of the mositure gone, and the finished salad is not as wet.

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