Summer 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.
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.