Growing up to eight inches (20 cm) long, the bean-like fruits ripen on a squat shrub in the fall. This shrub, which is only a few feet tall, originates from the mountain forests of western China and Nepal. The pods are divided up finger-shaped on the branch. “The fruit definitely tastes best fresh,” says Spicehunter and culinary expert Marcel Thiele. Although he banks on the hard-to-get original from East Asia, the counterpart from Europe has not yet won him over. “Unfortunately, they taste very different from the original.” Should you have access to a fresh harvest against all odds, then try combining them with gin or aquavit, prickly cucumber (chayote) or ganache. René Redzepi has already started using the blue pod at Noma in Copenhagen.
A sensitive companion
One reason why blue cucumbers are rarely available in German-speaking countries is because the taste of the fruit changes rapidly when stored at varying temperatures. Their intriguing taste can quickly turn into a very unpleasant one. Snake Fruit (Salak) is also known to do the same.
Steer clear of the seeds
If you open the pod, you will find a jelly-like interior, which is especially popular in western China. The pulp is full of seeds similar to watermelons, but they should not be eaten. “That’s what they say in Buthan,” says Spicehunter Marcel Thiele. “However, I have not yet had this confirmed from a scientific or toxicological perspective.”
The soil creates the taste
When picked fresh from the bush, the blue cucumber tastes sweetish tart with hints of lychee, guava, unripe mango or cucumber rind, loopi and sharon. If the plant is grown in clay-rich soil, the flavor of its fruit will even transform into liquorice cucumber.