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Crazy for Cukes


The cucumber announces the hottest weeks of summer with a cool, refreshing taste

Cucumbers are a summer signal for something cool and refreshing. There is nothing better than a slice of fresh cucumber straight from the garden (and, often, no comparison to those found in the produce aisles of a grocery store). In fact, most purchased cucumbers have a waxy coating to protect the skin - they should be peeled.

Those that are sold wrapped in plastic are more expensive for a reason - they generally have less seeds and taste sweeter. Don't forget the smaller cucumbers used for pickling. If you don't grow your own, check the roadside stands and farmers markets for the best-tasting of the season. The cukes should feel firm and slender. Any bulging could mean an abundance of bitter seeds.

Why are cucumbers so refreshing? Because they're made up of about 96% water. Plus, their skins keep internal temperatures several degrees cooler than the surroundings. So, when cutting into a fresh cuke, eat it immediately for that first burst of refreshment.

Store them wrapped in plastic (to preserve moisture) and keep them in the fridge. Don't leave them out at room temperature too long or they'll wilt.

A few tips for using cucumbers:

-Place a few peeled slices in a pitcher of water. Chill it for a couple of hours and serve.
-Cold cucumber soups are delicious. Puree with tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers; add salt and pepper to taste, and chill before serving.
-Dice and add to salads, including other veggies, tuna, or chicken.
-Slice and top with tuna salad.
-Add strained yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, olive, oil, and lemon juice to make the well-known Greek tzatziki.
-Don't forget cucumber sandwiches - made of cuke slices and buttered bread. These are the original "tea" sandwiches. Variations include adding cream cheese, cilantro, and other blends.

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