Cool as a Crunchy Cucumber

Sliced, diced, pickled or pureed, cucumbers add a cooling crunch to summertime dishes. Try these ideas to take cucumbers beyond the salad.

I remember having dinner at my sister’s house years ago when my oldest niece Emily, who was then about 10, watched her mother slice cucumbers for the salad. She picked one up and declared, “I know what these are! These are for your eyes!”Emily was right; cucumbers are one of those special foods that have more uses than just culinary. An internet search turns up some pretty unusual uses for cucumbers, everything from removing crayon drawings on walls to firming up cellulite on skin! I have no idea about the validity of many of these claims, but I do know that a summer without cold cucumbers is like a winter without hot soup.

Called Cucumis Sativus by science, the cucumber is a cousin to zucchini, watermelon, pumpkin and other squash. We love to eat them fresh or pickled. Fresh cucumbers are generally known as “slicing cucumbers” while the smaller, cultivated varieties, such as gherkins, are perfect for pickling. All varieties are cylindrical in appearance; their colors can range from whitish-green to dark green. Some have smooth skins while others are bumpy and ridged. Inside, a cucumber has watery, pale, whitish-green flesh. Some varieties have seeds and others are seedless. The flesh is crunchy, the seeds are edible, and the uses are numerous. Although the longer, slicing cucumbers are available year-round, all cucumbers are best enjoyed in season, added to summertime menus.Along with salads, discover new cucumber culinary creations from appetizers to soups to main dishes, side dishes and even desserts. Here’s a start:

Remember, when purchasing cucumbers, they should be firm. No soft spots, no browning and nothing yellow or limp. The thinner the cucumber, the less seeds it is likely to have. If your cucumber has a waxy coating, wash it off or peel it. Store all cucumbers in the fridge; they will keep for several days, but it is always advisable to use fresh veggies and fruits, including cucumbers, as soon as possible after purchase.How do you stay as cool as a cucumber? Got an idea or a favorite recipe? Let me know!

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