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Seasonal Produce: Cucumbers

As a member of the gourd family, cucumbers are related to squash and melons. This cylinder-shaped fruit with dark-green skin and ivory to pale green flesh is used like a vegetable in cooking. Crunchy and mild-flavored, cucumbers are filled with edible seeds and are made up of over 95% water. They are divided into two main types: slicing and pickling. Slicing cucumbers are either field or hothouse grown and are usually eaten raw in salads, sandwiches, relish trays and cold soups. Hothouse or English cucumbers have almost no seeds, are longer in length with thinner skins than field cucumbers and often sold wrapped in plastic.

Pickling cucumbers are usually smaller in size and sold mainly to food companies, though they may turn up at farmers’ markets for use in home pickling. While available year-round, cucumbers are best during their peak season of May through July.

Purchasing

  • Select firm cucumbers with smooth, deep-green skins. Slender cucumbers usually have less seeds than thick ones.
  • Avoid any with shriveled ends or a yellowish color.
  • Refrigerate unwashed cucumbers in a plastic bag for up to 1 week.
  • Sliced cucumbers can be wrapped airtight and refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Preparing

  • Rinse cucumbers under cold water before cutting.
  • Field cucumbers are often coated with a shiny wax to preserve freshness and should be peeled before using.
  • The skins of unwaxed cucumbers are edible and do not require peeling.
  • Pickling cucumbers should be scrubbed under running water with a vegetable brush to remove any sharp spines.
  • The edible seeds may be removed if the cucumber is to be stuffed, shredded or for personal taste. To seed cucumbers, cut them lengthwise into halves and use the tip of a small spoon or a melon baller to scrape out the seeds.
  • Cucumbers are usually served raw and can be sliced, chopped, diced, cut into strips or shredded.

Nutrition

  • Sodium free

Serving

  • Tuck sliced or chopped cucumber into sandwiches or pita pockets.
  • Toss cucumber slices into green salads or skip the greens and make a cucumber-only salad with some shredded carrots, thinly sliced onions and your favorite KRAFT Dressing.
  • Hollow out cucumber segments and fill with flavored PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese Spread for a quick appetizer.
  • Serve creamy tuna, chicken or shrimp salads in hollowed out cucumber halves.
  • Salmon and cucumber pair well together. Top cocktail rye bread slices with a cucumber slice, small piece of smoked salmon and tiny dollop of BREAKSTONE’S or KNUDSEN Sour Cream for easy appetizers.
  • Add chopped seeded cucumber to fruit salsas for refreshing flavor and crunch.
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