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Listed below are the types of cucumbers used in Finnish cooking and in the recipes of this site.

See also:

(Cucumis sativus)

Cucumber types

In Finland, because of the cool climate, cucumbers are mainly cultivated in hothouses, except for some fast-growing summer varieties that also thrive outside.

Cucumber varieties in the picture, from top left to bottom right: Finnish garden cucumbers, hothouse (English) cucumber, American cucumbers.

Most popular cucumber varieties used in Finland are hothouse cucumbers, also called English or burpless cucumbers, which are available year-round. These large-sized, long and thin cucumbers have tiny seeds and thin, non-bitter skin.

From early summer to autumn, there are also small garden cucumbers available. They are grown outside in gardens and are smaller in size than hothouse cucumbers. Also they have larger seeds and a thicker skin which may sometimes be bitter. Besides eaten fresh, they are used like gherkins, pickled in spiced vinegar or salt brine.

American-type, regular cucumbers are rarely seen sold in Finland. Smaller than hothouse cucumbers, they have larger seeds and thicker, bitter skins. They are usually waxed, so they need to be peeled before eating.

In Finland cucumbers are never waxed so they do not need to be peeled, unless their skin happens to be bitter and/or very thick.

Pickled gherkin

Pickled gherkins

Pickled gherkins are small cucumbers preserved in spiced brine. They vary in size from small to very tiny, and can be pickled either whole or sliced.

The pickling brine is usually sweet-and-sour, mixed from water, vinegar, sugar and salt and spices like dill, peppercorns, allspice, mustard seeds, horseradish and fresh blackcurrant leaves. Also garlic, onion, chilli pepper, cinnamon, clove, ginger, tarragon and other spices or herbs may be used to vary the flavour. Many varieties of pickled gherkins are sold in Finnish stores or made at home when the small garden cucumbers are in season. Similar-tasting gherkin preserves may be found sold around the world.

Note: when cooking following the recipes on this site, you should always carefully check whether the instructions call for regular pickled gherkins or Russian pickled gherkins to be used. There is a great flavour difference between these two (see right).

Russian pickled gherkin

Russian pickled gherkins

Although looking similar, the genuine Russian-type pickled gherkins  —  солёные огурцы (solenye ogurtsy, salted gherkins)  —  differ a great deal from regular, sweet-and-sour pickled gherkins (see left). Their pickling liquid consists of water and salt with the addition of spices like dill, horseradish and fresh blackcurrant leaves. No vinegar or sugar is used in this preservation method based on lactic acid fermentation process, similar in preparing sauerkraut, giving the salted gherkins their characteristic freshly-sour flavour. Other herbs and spices may be added according to one's taste, like bay leaf, tarragon, garlic, chilli pepper, parsley, thyme, and oak tree or cherry tree leaves. Gherkins prepared this way will be ready to eat after about one week.

Russian slightly salted gherkins  —  малосольные огурцы (malosol'nye ogurtsy, pictured below)  —  are marinated in salt and spice brine for only a couple of days to obtain less salty-tasting result. A quicker method for preparing slightly salted cucumbers is to cut off both ends of the cucumbers and cover them with hot salt brine. These gherkins will be ready to eat in just a few hours.

Russian slightly salted gherkins

Note that most Finnish-made fermented gherkins labelled as "genuine Russian-type" differ greatly from true Russian-made fermented gherkins, mostly because the Finnish-made almost always have an excessive amount of garlic added to them, completely overpowering their delicate, freshly-sour flavour. For some reason, Finns have a strong misconception that "Russian gherkins" must always be heavily flavoured with garlic, which is not the case.

To find genuine Russian fermented gherkins in Finland, seek for products of Marjex Oy, a Finnish wholesale company offering gherkins imported directly from Russia (available for example at the K-supermarket Masi in Helsinki). It should be noted that most fermented and pickled cucumbers, mushrooms, sauces, condiments and other food products sold as "Russian" in most Estonian, Eastern European, Russian or other ethnic stores in Finland are in fact made in countries like Germany, Poland, Estonia, or other EU countries, and are not truly Russian, which in most cases is detectable in their inferior taste when compared to any top-quality, genuine Russian-produced products.

Another source for a much wider selection of genuine Russian-produced food products is Estonia, its capital Tallinn being situated only a two-hour ferry ride from the Finnish capital Helsinki.

See a recipe for Russian gherkins served with smetana and honey.


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