Cucumbers: Cuckoo for Curcurbits

story and photos by Emily TeelSummer is an amazing time of year for locally grown produce in Philadelphia. Tomatoes are the divas of the farmers market: basket after basket of luminous heirlooms in every shape and shade are fawned over by a similar variety of fans, who pack the tomatoes’ delicate heft home for salads. Next to them, bouquet-sized bunches of basil crowd squeaky eggplants in every possible purple, and zucchini and summer squash have not yet worn out their welcome with eager overabundance.

But by the bushel, aloof — perhaps even cool — the cucumbers are the heroes of every summer salad.

Nutrition 101
Though they’re not the first superfood that one might think of, cucumbers are especially nutritious. They’re full of water and (as long as you leave the skins on) high in dietary fiber, vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and silica, which promotes joint health. There is also some research to show that the lignans contained in cucumbers may reduce the risk of estrogen-related cancers, including breast, uterine, ovarian and prostate cancers.

What to look for
Look for cukes with even coloring and firm texture, especially at the ends. Small cucumbers are often better than especially large ones, as they tend to have a crisper, more solid texture. Larger, more mature cucumbers tend to have larger seeds and a more bitter flavor.

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Shoots & Ladders: Be the Bee

A guide to helping cucumbers and melons get their groove on
by Char Vandermeer

If summer were a taste, it would surely be cucumber—or maybe muskmelon. They’re both little bursts of sunshine on the vine. While your planting space may be limited to a few pots or a tiny patch in a community garden, that doesn’t mean your taste buds should go unfulfilled. Philly may prove to be a tough habitat for these fussy vines, but that just means they’ll require some extra attention.

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