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Cool as a Cucumber!

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you see a cucumber?


Maybe one of the following?


"Maybe I should buy some to make homemade pickles."

"They are OK, kind of boring, I mean, you can't do much with them except eat them raw, right?!"

"That reminds me, I need to schedule my next spa appointment."

"I want to like them, but I heard they make you burp."

We want to share some information, maybe change your perceptions, and give you some inspiration about all the great-tasting meals you can make with fresh, in-season cucumbers!  And since we are nearing the end of June, the next few weeks are the perfect time to enjoy them!


What are cucumbers?

Believe it or not, cucumbers are actually part of the gourd family, along with squash, melons and pumpkins.  They were first grown over 3,000 years ago in India and have always been known for their cooling effects.  They contain up to 95% water, making them a great hydrating food during the summer.  During the winter months, most of the cucumbers you find in the stores are likely imported from countries like Mexico.  The best time to enjoy cucumbers is during the summer, especially when they are plentiful from the farmers' markets, or even from your own garden!


Are they good for you?

You may remember from our coaching tip that cucumbers are one of the best foods to help keep you hydrated.  Even though they have a high water content, they are also rich in other vitamins and nutrients.

They are a good source of vitamin A and K, as well as magnesium and potassium.  They are also rich in antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation and protect against many of those dreaded chronic diseases.  Not surprisingly, the peel and the seeds are the most nutrient-dense parts of the cucumber.  And in case you were wondering, one cup has only 16 calories.


So many varieties!

While there are over 100 different varieties of cucumbers, most can be categorized as slicing or pickling varieties:

Slicing cucumbers can have a thick or thin skin and are typically longer than pickling cukes.  These varieties are generally not great for pickling, but are excellent raw in salads or used as a dipper for hummus or other dips.


Some common varieties include:

Garden or American.  These are the ones you find at the store with the dark green skin.  At the store, they are often coated in wax to help retain moisture and prevent bruising.  Their skin is often thicker and sometimes a little bitter.  Because of the wax coating, it is best to scrub or peel them before eating.  They also tend to have bigger seeds.  While these are the most prevalent, we encourage branching out and enjoying other varieties, especially when they are in-season.

English.  These are typically long and skinny with a dark green skin.  You may also see them called hot-house (no, they do not need a hot house to grow) or seedless cucumbers.  These are the ones you find wrapped in plastic at the stores, and you can sometimes find them at farmers' markets also.  They have a very mild flavor, a thin skin and minimal seeds.

Armenian.  Typically long and thin, they come in both lighter and darker shades of green. They have very soft seeds and a thin skin.  You may sometimes find a variety called the Painted Serpent (or the "snake melon"), which can grow up to 2 feet long (or even longer).

Persian.  These are very similar to English cucumbers.  However, you will find Persian cucumbers in a variety of lengths (some short, some long) and some will have a slightly bumpy skin.  They have a thin skin and mild flavor.


Pickling cucumbers are shorter and squattier than slicing cucumbers.  Many who pickle prefer thin skins (to allow the brine to absorb) and a firm flesh (to help them keep their crunch).  Some of the popular pickling varieties include the Boston Pickling, the Calypso, the National Pickling, the Bush, and the Kirby cucumbers.

A couple of other fun varieties include lemon cucumbers (they look like a lemon, but don't taste like a lemon) and Japanese cucumbers (6" to 12" long, curved, light green flesh, thin and delicate skin, and very few seeds).


What's the deal with cucumbers and burping?

Especially at the farmers' markets, you may see "burpless" cucumbers.  And, for the record, no, cucumbers don't burp!  But some have a compound called cucurbitacin that has been reported to cause indigestion in some people (of course, this compound also provides many of the cukes' health benefits).

Some varieties have been developed to contain lower levels of cucurbitacin, which is where the "burpless" label comes from.  If cucumbers don't cause you any issues, there is no reason to opt for the burpless varieties, but if they do trigger any symptoms, the burpless varieties can be a good option.


How do you store cucumbers?

You can store whole cucumbers at room temperature (away from direct sunlight) for up to a week.  You can also store them in the crisper drawer of your fridge, although they will start to get a little mushy if they get too cold for too long.  Once they are cut, it is best to store them in the fridge in an airtight container (ideally, with a paper towel to soak up any excess moisture).  Because of their high water content, they really don't freeze very well.


Enjoy them!

Cucumbers are super-versatile for your meals!  They are perfect for slicing and using as a dipper for hummus or other dips or as part of your 24/7 veggie tray.  They are a great addition to a variety of salads and provide a fantastic crunch as a topping on burgers and sandwiches.  And, of course, they can be pickled!

Believe it or not, cucumbers can even be transformed into a chilled summer soup -- we just added a new Creamy Cucumber Soup to the website!  We were a little apprehensive that we could come up with a cucumber soup that have enough flavor to be "website worthy."  We love how this turned out - a perfect cool and refreshing addition for your summer meal!

Check out these refreshing and delicious ideas (and there are MANY more on the website):


Middle Eastern Nachos

Chicken Shawarma Wrap

Blackened Salmon with Avocado Cucumber Salsa

Summer Explosion Salad

Summer Bounty Buddha Bowl

Banh Mi Burger or Banh Mi Burger Bowl

Chilled Noodle Summer Salad

Summer Peach Lettuce Wraps

Strawberry Tabbouleh

Fruit Infused Water

Avocado Cucumber Salad

Sweet Surprise Corn Salad

Fattoush Salad

Minty Cucumber Cantaloupe Salad

Creamy Cucumber and Fennel Salad

Asian Cucumber Salad

Kale and Bok Choy Bi Bim Bop

Ivett's Mango Pico de Gallo

Watermelon Basil Gazpacho

Thai Steak Summer Salad

Asian Turkey Burger Salad


Summer is a perfect time to give yourself a challenge!

Enjoy a cucumber or two at least one day a week for the entire summer in ALL kinds of different ways.  Get your whole family involved and it a "keeper" or "sleeper?"  We are confident you will find some great, new recipes your whole family will enjoy!

Please don't forget to share your creations!



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