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How to use different varieties of cucumbers

What is a “burbless” cucumber?

Well, back in your great-grandparents’ day, standard cut cucumbers had their full dose of cucurbitacins – bitter compounds that caused many people to belch due to their indigestibility. In those days, it was shameful to burp in public, so over the years plant researchers have grown cucurbitacins from cucumbers, labeling their results as “burple-free.”

Cucurbitacins exist not only in cucumbers, but also in pumpkins and gourds. Their purpose is to ward off animals, insects, and bacterial and fungal infections.

Cucurbitacins are also effective as antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory substances in humans. So much so that scientists are now looking at them as anti-cancer compounds.

Many of today’s most popular sliced ​​cucumbers—the familiar hard-skinned types we often peel before slicing into salads—are belly-free, disease-resistant, and far less bitter than those that our ancestors knew them.

Our slicing cukes aren’t quite ready here in Sonoma County for sale at the farmers markets. But farms in the warmer parts of California send them ripe and ready to our stores, where you will find not only slices, but several other types.

To get the freshest cucumbers, avoid those that are waxed. This is almost always an indication that they are old, with wet flesh and hard seeds. And if any have a yellowish-white sunspot on one side, avoid them too. They are old.

Types of cucumbers

Named varieties pickling cucumbers they are grooved lengthwise, have a smooth surface, and are usually about 4-5 inches long, the perfect size for packing in a cucumber jar that you keep in the refrigerator. They are usually unwaxed.

Simply place the cukes in a jar with a handful of pickling spices or dill seeds and fill the jar with white vinegar so that the liquid covers the vegetables. Put the jar in the fridge for a few weeks and you’ll have your own homemade pickles.

You may also have seen small cardboard bins Persian cucumbers recently in stores. They are a favorite type in the Middle East. Their skins are striated and thin enough to not need peeling, although exfoliating them gives them a cosmetic boost. They are the go-to type for Greek salad, cut into small pieces along with tomatoes, onions, feta cheese and olives and dressed with salt, Greek oregano, lemon juice and olive oil.

The wonderful dishes of Iranian cuisine are often accompanied by Khiar Shoor Irani, which translates to “Persian Pickles”, a simple way of saying “Persian Pickles”. Make them the same as the fridge pickles (above), but with Persian cucumbers instead of pickles and coriander seeds instead of dill.

Greenhouse or English cucumbers they are generally high quality fruit, long and slender, with few seeds. They are often wrapped in plastic to protect their tender, unblemished skin, making them perfect for cutting into matchsticks to incorporate into nigiri sushi.

Those greenhouse cucumbers also excel in a Thai salad paired with raw chilies and lemongrass.

The fact that cucumbers are 94% water makes them a refreshing, low-calorie snack. Warm climate cultures use cucumbers in favorite summer dishes, so diners, too, can be as cool as a cucumber.

In India, cucumber raita – yogurt combined with cucumber and flavored with herbs and spices such as mint, cumin, and possibly chili, is a condiment used to balance the spice in the rest of the meal. In Greece, tzatziki is similar, but usually thicker because it is made with Greek yogurt.

Tzatziki for every meal

Makes 6 servings

No Greek meal would be complete without a bowl of tzatziki somewhere on the table. Dip pita in it or pieces of fish, chicken, roast lamb or goat. Or put an assortment of cold, sliced ​​vegetables on the table and watch people dip their crudités into tzatziki.

1 liter of Greek yogurt

3 cloves of fresh garlic, chopped

1 large cucumber, cleaned and grated

1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon of chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Peel and grate the cucumber, then press it between paper towels to remove as much liquid as possible.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.

Place the tzatziki in a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the mixture to chill and the flavors to meld.