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Cool as a Cucumber: Cucumbers take center plate to combat the heat of summer with their high water content

ByALETHEA PRICE

The Kitchen Agent

Coming to a table near you, cucumbers are in season and ready to be the star of your next meal. Served in a variety of ways, the distinctive crisp, cool vegetable will add extra crunch, whether in a sandwich or in your favorite salad. Have you ever used cucumber slices on a sandwich? It’s definitely worth a try. Cucumbers can easily be a supportive side or part of a main dish, even as a cold soup. They have a flavor that pairs well with sweet or tangy dressings or brines if you’re planning on making pickles. Cucumbers can benefit your health in many ways as well.

The water content of cucumbers is high, which is why the calorie content is so low. A whole cup of sliced cucumbers has only 13 calories. In cucumbers, the protein, carbohydrate and fat content is rather low. Cucumbers supply texture and freshness to meals and make wonderful snacks. One of the best and most trendy snacks right now is hummus. Hummus is a bean spread made primarily of chickpeas. Cucumbers and hummus are absolutely perfect together. Use cucumbers instead of chips or crackers in your favorite dips. You will save calories and carbs by making that simple switch. Toss them in a smoothie with fruit to add a freshness that can’t be beat.

One issue with eating cucumbers is the burp factor. Many people experience excessive burping and indigestion when cucumbers are consumed. Seedless, or burpless cucumbers as Jerry our County Agent for Agriculture calls them, are a good choice if you suffer from these digestive issues. They have the same nutrition value and work perfectly well in all of your cucumber recipes.

There are two common varieties of cucumbers grown in Kentucky, slicing and pickling. Slicing cucumbers are larger than pickling cucumbers and work well in salads, on sandwiches and as a snack. Pickling cucumbers are smaller and are used primarily for pickling although you can eat them raw as well. English cucumbers are seedless or have few seeds so they don’t have the burp factor.

When selecting cucumbers at the farmers’ market or vegetable stand, look for those that have been kept cool or stored in the shade. Supermarket cucumbers should be displayed in a cooled case. Avoid cucumbers that are shriveled and withered. Also avoid those that have bulging middles. Overripe cucumbers, with large seeds and watery flesh, will have poor taste. Slender, firm, dark green cucumbers will taste the best. Bruises and dark spots on cucumbers are signs of decay.

Cool storage is recommended. From the garden or market, store the unpeeled cucumbers in your refrigerator crisper. If cucumbers have a wax coating, store them in the crisper and use within a week. Keep peeled cucumbers wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and store in the cool part of the refrigerator. Use within one or two days.

Wash all cucumbers before cooking or eating. Cooking cucumbers by heating is common in some regions of the country. The vegetable’s delicate flavor will complement meat dishes. Some recipes call for scooping out the seeds and just using the flesh. Seasoned with herbs and other dressings such as lemon, dill, tarragon, or mint, adds depth of flavor.

Pickling is one of the oldest known methods of preserving food. Cucumbers are one of the most common foods pickled. For any pickling questions don’t hesitate to contact me. Family and Consumer Sciences Agents are the experts in safe food preservation practices. Call the Boyle County Extension Office at 236-4484 and ask about food preservation classes and tips.

Upcoming Canning Classes:

  • Canning Basics July 6th at 10am and again at 6pm at the Boyle County Extension Office
  • Boiling Water Bath Canning July 9th at 10am at the Boyle County Extension Office
  • Pressure Canning July 12th at 10am at the Boyle County Extension Office.

Call 236-4484 to sign up. All classes are free but space is limited so call to reserve your spot. Class is subject to cancel if a 5 participant minimum is not reached.

 

If you have questions or comments about the column, or if you’d like more information feel free to contact me by email at a.price@uky.edu

 

Cadiz Cucumber Salad

12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 Kentucky Proud green bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 3 or 4 Kentucky Proud cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 4 or 5 Kentucky Proud onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 tablespoon celery seeds

Combine the bell peppers, cucumbers and onions in a one gallon container with a tight-fitting lid. Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt and celery seeds in a bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for three to four days before serving. (For a more colorful dish, use one red bell pepper and one green bell pepper.)

 

Gazpacho

Serves: 6 (1/2-cup servings)

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 small onion, quartered
  • 1/2 green pepper, cut in chunks
  • 3 tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cucumber, cut in chunks
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water or chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

In a blender, blend onion and garlic. Turn machine off and add the other vegetables, vinegar, and oil. Blend only until the vegetables are chopped. If the soup is too thick, add the water or stock. Cover and refrigerate until serving time. If needed, add salt, pepper, and more vinegar. Serve cold.