Daily News: Vitamins

In season: Cucumbers

Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI)

09-06-13

Sept. 06--Ingredient: Cucumbers

What they are: Originally cultivated in India or Thailand, many cultures use cucumbers raw and in pickled form. The long, green vegetable has a dark green skin with little bumps on the outside.

"The inside is crisp and sweet (for a cucumber), with seeds down the center," said Kristen Kordet, owner of Blue Moon Community Farm in the town of Dunn. "With an organic cucumber, you would just slice it and keep the skin on. Some people like to peel it off before you eat it, but we usually don't."

Kordet said that cucumbers are technically the fruit of the plant, so it's acceptable to call them a fruit even though most people consider them a vegetable.

How they're used: They're usually used in fresh form, either sliced into salads or made into chilled soups in the warmer months. Cucumbers are a good snack for children and can also add crunch to a sandwich or snack cracker.

"We also grow a variety of cucumbers that are better for pickling," Kordet said. "They are the smaller, pricklier, crisper cucumbers that make a good pickle. We can do a dill pickle or sweet pickle from those."

The cucumber is also used as a skin conditioner, possibly due to its vitamin E content. Some people rub an end slice or the inside of a peel on their face for its refreshing quality.

How they're cooked: Sometimes they are used in Asian cooking, lightly sauteed "or put into a creation of some sort," Kordet said.

Storage: Cucumbers last about one week in a refrigerator vegetable drawer. They deteriorate quickly after being cut or peeled.

Season: Late June until the first frost.

"We grow a really tasty field cucumber that produces for about three to four weeks, so we plant it several times throughout the summer," Kordet said. "Right now we are harvesting our third planting so we can keep having fresh ones until the frost."

She said they started their first cucumber plants in the greenhouse around the end of April, and transplanted them outside in May, after the risk of frost had passed.

Nutrition: Cucumbers are 95 percent water and contain small amounts of vitamins A and C and a few minerals. They are also surprisingly rich in vitamin E.

Where to find: Blue Moon Community Farm sells its certified organic cucumbers Saturdays at the Westside Community Market at Sheboygan Avenue and Segoe Road.

Sources: Kristen Kordet, Blue Moon Community Farm, town of Dunn; "From Asparagus to Zucchini," from the FairShare CSA Coalition; "Food Lover's Companion" by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

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(c)2013 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)

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