Belonging to the same botanical family as melons and gourds, cucumbers evoke visions of summer. Choose carefully and your taste buds will be rewarded by the herbal, sweet flavor of a well-raised cucumber.
Cucumbers, like tomatoes, have been the victims of modern cultivation practices which dictate that they be uniform in size but often lacking in flavor. Luckily, far-ranging cucumber varieties do exist, from one-inch gherkins to mammoth 20-inch English “telegraphs,” in an assortment of colors and shapes. Cucumbers contain silica, an essential component of healthy connective tissue. Because it is so good for the skin, cucumber has been used for centuries to treat dermatitis, sunburn, and eye-swelling. In addition, it contains significant amounts of ascorbic and caffeic acids, meaning that despite its largely watery composition, it is helpful in preventing fluid retention.
Select cucumbers that are heavy for their size, firm, and unblemished. Bypass those that show softness or wrinkling on the ends, or yellowing. Store unwashed cucumbers in the vegetable crisper, rather than the coldest part of the refrigerator, in a ventilated plastic bag.