In Season: Cucumbers

by in In Season, June 23, 2010

cucumbers

Ever wonder where “cool as a cucumber” came from? Perhaps it’s because this member of the gourd family is always a few degrees cooler on the inside than its surroundings.  Cool, crispy cucumbers are hitting the markets now — find out how we love to use them.

When, Where, & What?
Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus, Cucurbitaceae) belong to the gourd family, which includes squash and melons. Now grown all over the world, cukes are thought to have originated in either India or Thailand.

Cucumbers are classified based on whether they’re good for slicing (a.k.a. eating fresh) or for pickling. American slicing cucumbers are short and thick, and their tough skin contains a chemical used by the plants to protect themselves from pests. That’s what gives cucumbers their bitter taste. Common varieties in the Northeast include Encore, Raider, Speedway, Thunder and Striker. Hothouse are very long (about a foot) and have fewer seeds, a thinner skin and are wrapped in plastic — which means there’s so no wax coating or peeling necessary.

The American pickling cucumber has thin skin, which makes it easier for the brine to flavor up the entire veggie. Common varieties include Kirby and Earlipik 14. Kirby cukes are short and have a bumpy yellow or green skin. They can be used for both slicing and pickling.

Cucumber seeds and skin are edible, though you may not always want to use them. Peel cucumbers if they have waxed skin or if the skin has a bitter flavor. As cucumbers mature, the seeds grow larger and become more bitter — to remove the seeds, cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the pulpy center with a spoon. Although you can find cucumbers at your market year-round, the peak season is from May through August.

Nutrition Facts
Each medium cucumber contains 96 percent water and around 40 calories. Cucumbers are are very low in sodium, with only 6 milligrams, and a good source of vitamin C, magnesium and potassium — more than 10 percent of your daily needs of each! One cucumber also provides more than 60 percent of your daily vitamin K needs.

What To Do With Cucumbers
Of course you can chomp on fresh cucumbers dipped in hummus, low fat dressings or homemade salsa. They give salads a crunch that’s cool and refreshing during the summer months. To create the perfect cucumber salad, remove the excess water so it doesn’t get too soupy. I like to lay the cucumber slices flat on a cookie tray lined with paper towels. Then sprinkle with salt (about 1 teaspoon per cuke) and let stand one hour. Squeeze out the juice by grabbing handfuls of cucumbers or wrap in a clean kitchen towel (it’s a good tension-releaser too). Cold cucumber soup and beverages are other ways to enjoy this cool fruit as is sauteing in a teaspoon of oil.

Shopping Tip: Choose fresh cucumbers that are firm and green with no signs of bruising or discoloration. Avoid those that are mushy, shriveled, discolored or without their skin intact. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one week. Wash and scrub gently before use.

Cucumber Recipes To Try:

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »

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Comments (2,457)

  1. Gail says:

    I have a kind of off the wall question. My 19 year old daughter tried to donate blood last week. Her blood pressure was almost too low. It was too low in one arm, so the tech took it in the other arm & it was right at the minimum for donating. Would a salty snack help her out right before donating or is salt something that raises bp over time?

  2. Food Freak says:

    Slice them and use them instead of crackers when making canapes.

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by HealthyEats.com, toby amidor. toby amidor said: Check out my cuke salad http://blog.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/2010/06/23/in-season-cucumbers/ [...]

  4. [...] In Season: Cucumbers: How do you eat cucumbers? Here’s how a few of you snack on this cool, crisp [...]

  5. Lynne says:

    Kool Kucumber Margaritas!! The best *yes, I spelled with a K instead of C, its a drink don't say oowee until you tried them!! Great refreshing drink
    1 sliced thin whole cuke
    1 bunch of mint
    Limeade and lime wedges
    Good white tequila (Suaza, Patron you get the meaning)
    Triple Sec
    Club soda, Ice, marg salt or kosher salt
    Run a lime wedge around your marg glass and dip in salt if preferred
    In a high ball or a shaker macerate 10 or so mint leaves and 10-12 slices of cucumber. You should get a great green speckled looking base. Add ice, 1 shot tequila, 1/2 shot of triple sec shake vigorously, add 2 oz limeade or so, shake again. Line your marg glass with 2 or 3 fresh slices of cuke, add fresh ice cubes strain mint/cuke mixture into glass top with club soda. Or to shortcut it or make froze margs, 6 oz limade concentrate, 1 cup tequila, 1/2 c triple sec, 3 cans of ice or 18 oz, handfull of mint, and probably 1 1/2 cucumbers diced. Save and slice other half for garnish along with some mint leaves. Blend until you get great frozen consistency. Place a few slices of cukes in bottom of glass along with mint leave pour conction over and enjoy!

  6. fajar says:

    thanks for share

  7. [...] and zucchini are in the same family, but they each have characteristics all their own. Cucumbers are classified based on whether they’re good for slicing and eating fresh or for pickling. [...]

  8. [...] Cucumbers There are two categories of cucumbers: pickling and slicing. In order to make your own pickles, you’ll want to go for the obvious [...]

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