Cucumbers are the fruit of the gourd family, and there are many varieties to choose from.
Long, dark, smooth-skinned European greenhouse cucumbers are typically wrapped in plastic. These have thin skins and almost no seeds, and are mild, sweet and refreshing in flavor. Japanese cucumbers, crunchier and more intensely flavored, are long and narrow with a bumpy skin that doesn’t need to be peeled. American cucumbers are waxy and fat, usually less tasty and more watery but less expensive. Pickling cucumbers are short and thick, with a bumpy skin and solid crunch, making them appropriate for nonpickled preparations.
» Buying and storing: Look for unblemished, firm cucumbers without soft, shriveled or yellowing spots. Store them in the refrigerator, wrapped in paper towel and in a plastic bag.
» Uses: We commonly use cucumbers in salads, namasu and pickles. Good cucumbers don’t need to be peeled or seeded, just sliced and eaten.
Add slices to a pitcher of ice water and allow the flavor to permeate.
Cook a cucumber: Slice in half lengthwise, then cut into bite-size half-moons. Melt a little butter in a saute pan and stir-fry the cucumbers over high heat, adding a little salt. Sprinkle with fresh chopped dill or chives if you like. Cook just for a couple of minutes to heat through and retain crunchiness.
Hawaii food writer Joan Namkoong offers a weekly tidbit on fresh seasonal products, many of them locally grown. Look for "Fresh Tips" every Wednesday.