If you’re looking for a refreshing way to cool off this summer, try cucumbers. Cucumbers have an extremely high water content that gives them a crisp, cool, refreshing taste.
Originally from southern Asia, cucumbers, like melons, squash and pumpkins, are members of the gourd family. Although available year-round, they reach their peak from May to September.
Cucumbers are 90 percent water, but they are low in sodium and are an excellent source of vitamins K and C, magnesium and potassium. One medium cucumber is only 40 calories.
There are a variety of cucumbers, which differ in size, shape and color. Slicing or Persian cucumbers are grown to be eaten fresh or to be pickled. They are long, crispy and thin and have a light- to medium-green color. The smaller gherkins are grown to make pickles.
When selecting a cucumber, look for those that are firm, round at the edges and medium to dark green. Generally, thinner cucumbers will have fewer seeds than their thicker counterparts. Avoid any that are yellow, bruised or wrinkled. To keep cucumbers fresh, store them in the refrigerator, where they will stay fresh for several days.
Before freezing, cucumbers should be chopped and tossed in a small amount of vinegar. If frozen properly, they will keep for three to four months.
Cucumbers can be enjoyed a variety of ways. Add them to a salad or a refreshing gazpacho, eat them plain with salt and pepper or try the following recipe for Cool Cucumber Salad.
Cool Cucumber Salad
• 1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/3 cup apple-cider vinegar
• 1/4 cup white wine
• 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
• 1/3 cup red onion, mixed
• 1 garlic clove, minced
Place cucumber slices in bowl, sprinkle with salt and toss well. Let sit for 15-20 minutes.
To make sauce: Combine vinegar, wine, sugar, chili powder, red onion and garlic in small saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cook until reduced to 1/3 cup (approximately 10 minutes). Remove reduction from heat and cool to room temperature.
Pour cooled sauce over sliced cucumbers and toss to coat. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Makes two to four servings.Heather Hunsaker graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. She is a writer and recipe developer for meal-planning site www.foodonthetable.com.