Season for Cucumber May - August
Cucumbers are great all on their own - raw, unadulterated and cool as can be. But, when they become pickles, they are extra juicy, flavorful and delicious - and an undoubted American favorite. Though you'd never guess it by taste (unless you get those slight melon notes), cucumber is botanically a fruit, but just like tomatoes and squash we use them as if they were veggies. Cucumbers have a mild, almost watery flavor and are grown to be eaten fresh (called slicers). Those intended for pickling (called picklers) have a similar, yet smaller, appearance. At 90% water, cucumbers are mainly eaten in their unripe green form.
How to Buy and Store Cucumber
Try to pick cucumbers that have been kept cool, as they can be very sensitive to heat. When looking for the perfect specimen, seek those that are firm with vivid, deep-colored skins. Check to make sure the ends are not soft or starting to shrivel up. In fact, make sure the whole cucumber is void of any shriveling, soft spots or discoloration. Yellowing skins are a bad sign too. Always refrigerate cucumbers unwashed, and eat within a 4-7 days. If you only eat a portion of a cucumber in one sitting, you should wrap or seal the remaining in a container and eat within a day or two.
How to Cook Cucumber
Actually, we wouldn't cook cucumbers at all! Their merit lies in their cool, refreshing nature. Unwaxed and organic cucumbers need not be peeled before eating, but should be washed prior to cutting. Waxed cucumbers should always be peeled first to avoid ingesting the chemicals that come along with the petroleum-based wax. Cucumbers can be sliced, diced or cut into sticks. While the seeds are certainly edible and nutritious, some people prefer not to eat them. To easily remove them, cut the cucumber lengthwise and use the tip of a spoon to gently scoop them out. Any salad benefits from some sliced cucumber.
Health Benefits of Cucumber
Since cucumbers are mostly water, they are deeply hydrating and can add to your very important daily water intake. In addition to H2O, the flesh contains ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and caffeic acid, both of which help soothe skin irritations and reduce swelling. This fruit is widely used in the beauty industry: Two slices upon tired puffy eyes provide the perfect boon when needed and the shiny skin has high amounts of silicone believed to encourage healthy skin, nails and hair growth when eaten. Mashed cucumber can also treat burns, swollen feet, acne and those wrinkles you're not too fond of. Cucumber's hard skin is also rich in fiber and contains a variety of beneficial minerals.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Cucumber
Conventional cucumbers are coated with a petroleum-based wax that's applied to retain their moisture and prolong their shelf life. The Environmental Working Group ranks cucumbers #19 on their "dirtiest" produce list, of those fruits and veggies most likely to be contaminated by pesticide residues when grown conventionally. Sure, you can buy waxed cucumbers and peel the skin off, but you'll also be peeling off vital nutrients. And remember, peeling is never foolproof as the chemicals can penetrate the whole of the cucumber. Instead, opt for organic cucumbers which have never been waxed or sprayed.