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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Baby Cucumbers Are the Latest Rage

Cucumbers are one of my favorite vegetables. I love their refreshing, cooling flavor. But as I was growing up, I always hated peeling off the outside skin (a necessity as the skin was bitter). As you must know, field grown cucumbers have a tough (though edible) skin. It just seems like so much work to have to peel them, before slicing and adding to salads.

Enter: Hot House Cucumbers, aka Hydroponic Cucumbers, aka European Cucumbers, aka Seedless Cucumbers, aka Burpless Cucumbers. It probably won’t come as a surprise that Frieda’s Inc. had a hand in the first marketing of this now widely grown product. It was back in the late 1960s that my mother received the first Hot House Cucumbers at her produce stand at the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market. They were kind of strange looking and originally came all the way (by truck) from Florida. First of all, they were wrapped in plastic film (partially to identify them from the field grown version and also to protect them from the cold – since they are grown in hot houses, they should NOT be refrigerated).

Second, they did not have to be peeled. It took many years, and lots of educational material, to make sure consumers and produce buyers knew that they did not have to be peeled. What a time saver! And they had an added bonus: (to be blunt) they do not make you burp, which used to be a common complaint.

Now they are grown and distributed throughout the United States from as far north as Canada and in many places throughout North America and Mexico. As with most vegetables, the harvests move from growing area to growing area, starting in the south (Mexico) in the winter months and moving north (Canada) in the summer.

The latest “innovation” in cucumber marketing is the “baby” Persian cucumber. These mini cucumbers are about 6 inches long and usually come packed in clamshells or bags and now can be found in most every supermarket across the country. They are called “Persian” cukes because these miniatures have long been popular with shoppers of Persian and most Middle Eastern descents. Sliced into salads, they are quite firm and crunchy. And they do not have to be peeled.

I’m thrilled that they are now widely available. I can buy either a 1 lb. or 2 lb. package a couple of times a week, and store them in the refrigerator. I slice 1 or 2 of them lengthwise and include them in my own lunch or my daughter’s. They are great eaten as is, or dipped in hummus.

I still purchase the Hot House Cucumbers, as I find they have a softer texture when thinly sliced into salads. And try this for a refreshing beverage…When you are entertaining add thin slices of cucumber and lemon to water. It gives a fresh, earthy flavor and is healthy alternative to other beverages (like sodas…which are virtually banned at my house).

I do have one recommendation when purchasing Hot House Cucumbers: pick a good one which will last at home – inspect the ends to make sure they are NOT soft. That’s the part that goes bad first. Some retailers refrigerate them and others do not. When you get home, it’s best to store them at the same temperature that you purchase them (it’s the change in temperature and humidity that causes them to go bad quickly).

Enjoy!
Karen


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1 comment:

  1. Seedless cucumbers, aka English cucumbers, an important ingredient in the very English drink - Pimms. Seedless cucumbers are also the key ingredient in cucumber sandwiches, a very delicate sandwich of very thinly sliced white bread and butter with finely sliced cucumbers. Both Pimms and cucumber sandwiches are part of the English Summer outdoors traditions and are also served at the Wimbledon tennis championships every year, plus of course strawberries and cream (that's heavy cream, not the whipped version, more common in America). Gillian Schultz

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