Cucumbers are relatives of melons. They are grown all over the world and are used for more than pickling, they are used in salads and the harder varieties even in curries.
They grow on a trailing yellow flowered vine with that can climb around a frame, a trellis, or even indoors around a sunny window. Cucumbers come in all shapes sizes from tiny gherkins or cornichons, through round apple cucumbers and oblong mid sized Persian cucumbers, to the long and elegant almost seedless English cucumbers that add their crisp mild flavor and cool pale green color Britain’s traditional cucumber tea sandwiches.
Although cucumbers are now grown year round, they are originally a summer fruit. Low in calories and high in vitamin K, they also have quite an array of antioxidant phytonutrients such as flavonoids, lignans, and triterpenes which combined with their high water content makes them fabulously hydrating eaten raw in salads. Adding cucumber slices to chilled water, adds great fresh flavor that can be really helpful for those going through chemo taste changes. A downside is that some people find the peel hard to digest, but that is easily solved with peeling.
Look for firm, smooth unblemished green cucumbers. Discard any with soft or yellow patches. Cucumbers are picked unripe and green, so their color is important, as they become bitter when ripe. They will keep well in the fridge for 3-4 days, but once cut, their high water content means they can get moldy fast, even if the uncut parts are vacuum sealed, so keep an eye on them.
They are great in salads like our traditional cucumber dill salad which is great with salmon, in a cold soup like Cucumber Yogurt and Wheat Berry Soup, or as a snack on toast with smashed chickpeas or as a refreshing granita ice for a sore mouth.