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Is it a zucchini or a cucumber? I get this question almost every time I talk with kids about that long, green vegetable. (They do have some similarities. It would be easy to confuse.)

If you garden, cucumbers seem to keep coming and growing and expanding across the soil! So, when you are ready to eat, know you can do a lot with a cucumber. From pickles to salads, from pureed soups to roasted, and from sandwich toppers to dippers, cucumbers can be used in many ways.

Nutritionally, 1 cup of sliced cucumbers contains around 15 calories, 4g carbohydrate, and is a source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K and potassium. Cucumbers contain almost no fat, protein, fiber, or sodium.

  • Buy: Look for firm cucumbers with even green color. Avoid those with soft spots, yellow skin, or bulging middles (suggesting watery flesh or large seeds).

If buying pickles, look for reduced sodium varieties. Do not reduce sodium when making your own pickles, unless the recipe is tested.

  • Price: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, raw cucumbers cost $1.30 per pound (or about $0.35 per 1 cup) on average. These are economical veggies.
  • Store: Cucumbers can be stored in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag, up to a week. If buying cucumbers without wax, know they may start to decay or dry out faster than waxed varieties.
  • Prepare: Wash cucumbers well and remove both ends. A vegetable brush may be needed to more thoroughly clean the cucumbers. Cut into desired size pieces.
  • Eat: Cucumbers can be eaten cooked or raw, although most recipes will use them raw. (Using raw vegetables and fruits makes it very important to wash produce and follow food safety recommendations.) Remember to refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of preparation.


Greek Salad (Serves 6)

This side salad is a hit. Lots of flavor, lots of crunch, lots of veggies! Pair with seafood or chicken or even mix with cooked whole-grain pasta.

Half of 1 medium cucumber
1 pint cherry tomatoes
Half of 1 medium red onion
Half of 6-oz package reduced-fat chunk feta cheese
3-oz can sliced black olives, drained
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

1. Slice cucumber into thin half-rounds. Cut tomatoes in half. Slice onion into thin slices. Crumble feta cheese.
2. Combine cucumbers, tomato, onion, feta, and olives. Mix to combine.
3. Combine garlic, oil, vinegar, oregano, sugar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Toss with cucumber mixture.
4. Refrigerate several hours or serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers and use with 4 days.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 120 calories, 10g fat, 370mg sodium, 5g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 3g protein

Source:  Kirby's Kitchen, University of Illinois Extension, 2014