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Cucumbers

The reason I've picked cucumbers for my New Years Day show is that they are great for hangovers. Hopefully all of you won't have one, but if you do, here goes...........

Cucumbers are just water in a solid form, so add salt and they are better than Gatorade. You'll feel better in a few minutes!! The salted cucumber will make you feel better and won't irritate your stomach.

There are more exotic things on the market, but nothing tastes cooler than a cucumber. Related to squash and melons, cucumbers are plentiful year round in most states. Although there are many varieties, there are basically four types, select, European seedless, kirby, and gherkin. Select cucumbers are the smooth-skinned, garden-variety cucumbers that occasionally have a knobby end. "Super select" are the top of the line of this variety - they are long, straight, and smooth with a dark green skin.

The European seedless has great color, good size, and great shape, but I think it has very little flavor compared to regular cukes. Often called the burpless (cucumber seeds cause some people to belch), they have less flavor precisely because they are seedless. The seeds are what carry most of a cucumber's flavor.

The variety I think has the best flavor doesn't always look the best, the kirby, which is a small, knobby, pale green cucumber with a warty skin. Although it's considered a pickling cucumber, it is excellent eaten fresh. Crisp and crunchy, it has tiny seeds and an excellent flavor. You can usually find kirbys at produce markets and farm stands.

The fourth variety is almost never available at retail stores. The gherkin, the tiniest of the cucumbers, is usualy sold straight to processors and made into sweet pickles. I'm a fanatic for them, but they generally show up on the market in jars, not fresh.

Season

In winter supplies come from California, Florida, and Texas, with imports from Mexico and the Caribbean. Winter cucumbers are usually waxed to prevent moisture loss in shipping and storage. During the growing season in your area, buy locally grown unwaxed cucumbers. A good unwaxed cucumber doesn't need peeling. Wash waxed ones well or peel them.

Selecting

Very simply, the darker the cuke, the better - except for the kirby, which is naturally very pale. Standard cucumbers should be long and slender. Don't buy jumbo sizes, as they will be mostly seeds. Avoid soft, withered-looking, or yellowed cukes, which are more likely to be bitter.

Preparing

When you can get cucumbers unwaxed, all you need to do is rinse them. Although waxed cucumbers are only coated with vegetable oil, I recommend peeling them. You'll never be able to remove all the oil by washing.

Other recipes from Produce Pete.

   

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