Avoid the tasteless thick-skinned and wax coated cucumbers commonly available in grocery stores, and seek out the many flavorful cucumber varieties in farmers’ markets instead. Supermarket cucumbers have become almost unrecognizable in taste due to the genetic engineering done to solve packaging issues. The problem that needed to be solved was thin skins, which are easily damaged as they are shipped from one part of the country to another. Researchers developed hybrids of the American slicing cucumber with thicker skins, which are better suited to mechanical harvesting and distant shipping. This bland cucumber is so ubiquitous that it is easy to believe that it is the only type of cucumber out there, when in fact there are many cucumber varieties, each with its own flavor, color, shape and size.
Once you have found a local source for cucumbers, make sure to buy fruits that are unblemished and firm. Store them in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic to keep them hydrated and separate them from ethylene producing fruits like bananas and tomatoes, which will turn cucumbers yellow.
Some cucumbers have smooth skin and some have spiny warts. Smooth skinned varieties don’t need to be peeled unless they have been waxed, just wash them as usual. Give warty cucumbers a good scrub with a vegetable brush to get rid of the tiny spines. Mature cucumbers may need to be seeded. As the fruit matures, so do the seeds and they become not only more fibrous but more bitter as well. To seed a cucumber, slice it length-wise and scoop the seeds out with a spoon. Keep in mind that when you seed a cucumber, you are throwing away valuable fiber so don’t do it automatically, make the decision based on how you will be using it.
Cucumbers are most frequently eaten raw, but they are also delicious cooked. They are members of the squash family and when cooked, are very similar to green zucchini. Whether cooked or raw, locally grown cucumbers will add enticing new flavors to your summer meals.
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