What’s your favorite way to enjoy a crisp, green cucumber?
Prepare this delicious fruit in any number of ways to transform its flavor. Eat it raw on a salad, pickled, sautéed, baked or boiled. There are countless ways to enjoy cucumbers
Tell me all about cucumbers
Cucumbers belong to the Cucurbitaceae family, which includes squash, pumpkin and watermelon. Grow cucumbers in the warm summer months, 1-6 weeks after the last frost. As most varieties vine, cucumbers are great for vertical growing on a trellis. It makes them less susceptible to cold and frost. That means you can plant more in a small space! They love ample amounts of water as they are composed of approximately 95% water. That makes the phrase “cool as a cucumber” very appropriate.
So many varieties, who knew?
There are three varieties of cucumber: slicing, pickling and burpless. Each variety has its own characteristics, taste and appearance.
- Slicing cucumbers are longer in length than the other varieties. Known for their thick, dark green skin, they are resistant to damage during handling and shipping. Typically, we eat these cucumbers fresh in their unripe green form. The ripe yellow form can be bitter and sour. A good example is the English cucumber.
- Pickling cucumbers are short and blocky with thin, bumpy skins. They are used primarily for pickling or processing. There are a dozen varieties best suited for the process of pickling or preserving in vinegar, water, salt, sugar and an herb spice solution. They are often smaller, ranging from 5-10 centimeters in length and remain crisp when preserved to create the smooth, crunchy texture we all yearn for in a salty pickle. Pickling this fruit not only supplies nutrients like vitamin C, but also healthy bacteria that can prevent harmful microbes from growing in the intestines. Some examples include Gherkin, Cornichon, Kirby, County Fair 83 and the Bush cucumber.
- Burpless cucumbers have a thinner skin, are sweeter in taste and contain little or no cucurbitacin, a compound that causes bitterness and increases the likelihood of “burping” after eating. They are easier for most people to digest. These cucumbers can grow as long as two feet and are usually seedless and found wrapped in plastic at the grocery store. A few great examples would include the Summer Dance Hybrid, Garden Sweet Burpless Hybrid and the Burpless Beauty.
Nutritional benefits of cucumbers. More than just hydration!
All varieties of cucumbers boast numerous nutritional benefits, most notably their high water and fiber content which supports a healthy digestive system and assists in maintaining weight. They are naturally low in calories and are about 95 percent water. The B vitamins found in cucumbers help ease feelings of anxiety and stress. Antioxidants such as vitamin C and beta carotene provide immunity and support improved eye health.
Fisetin, contained in cucumbers, is an anti-inflammatory compound shown to improve memory and protect nerve cells from age related decline. Polyphenols, called lignans as well as phytonutrients found in cucumbers help to lower risk of some types of cancer as well.
This month’s recipe features cucumbers in an easy Greek inspired salad. Fresh, seasonal vegetables are lightly tossed in a tangy vinaigrette to yield a delicious and simple side dish or light dinner on a hot summer night. The natural salty flavor of the feta and Kalamata olives pair nicely with the fresh, crisp cucumbers and sweet, juicy cherry tomatoes. For a nontraditional addition, consider adding a diced avocado to add another contrast with its creamy texture.
- 3Tbspolive oil
- 3Tbspred wine vinegar
- 1tspminced garlic
- 1/2tspdried oregano
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
- 1ptcherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 1/2cupscrumbled feta cheese, (8 ounces)
- 1/2red onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1large cucumber, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
- 1/2cupKalamata olives, pitted
- In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, tomatoes, feta cheese, onion, cucumber, and olives.
- In a jar, combine the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and oregano; season with salt and pepper. Shake well to combine. Drizzle dressing over sal- ad, and toss to coat. Serve immediately.
Sarah Yandow, CHWC, is a wellness health coach with Employee Wellness and Employer Health Management at the University of Vermont Medical Center.