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Some of the first summer vegetables harvested in Kentucky gardens are cool, crisp cucumbers. Cucumbers can be found in local gardens and farmers markets between June and mid-September. The internal temperature of a cucumber can be 20 degrees cooler than the outside air and with steamy Kentucky days these popular vegetables bring coolness to summer meals.
A one-half cup serving of cucumber yields only 7 calories and is a good source of vitamins A and C. Select firm cucumbers with a rich green color and no soft spots. Cucumbers that bulge in the middle are usually filled with large, watery seeds and lack flavor. Whole cucumbers can be stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for up to one week.
One of the most common vegetables planted in Kentucky gardens is corn. Depending on the variety, peak season for sweet corn is late June to mid- September.
Corn is high in protein and carbohydrates and is a good source of vitamin C. A one-half cup of cooked corn contains 90 calories.
When selecting corn, make sure the husks are green, tight, and fresh looking. Pull the husk back to make sure the ear contains tightly packed rows of plump kernels. The kernels should be smaller at the tip of the ear. Large kernels indicate over maturity. If you pinch a corn kernel, milk-colored juice should spurt out from the kernel. The sooner you cook corn the better. If you will not be cooking corn shortly after purchasing or picking, you should store in the refrigerator or in another cool area. Refrigera-tion helps the corn retain its sugar and vitamin C. Warmth causes the sugar content of corn to be converted into starch. This process will cause the ears to become less sweet. Keeping the corn in the husk will also help retain moisture. If possible do not remove the husk until ready to use.
To preserve the highest quality, corn should be cooked, canned, frozen, or dried as soon as possible after harvest. The longer you wait to process, the lower the quality.
To capture the fresh taste of cucumbers and corn together, try this tasty salsa.
Cucumber, Corn and Bean Salsa
2-3 large cucumbers
1Yellow bell pepper
1 Small red onion
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ cup black beans
½ cup fresh whole kernel corn, cooked
1 ounce package dry ranch dressing mix
1/8 cup cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon sugar
Directions: Wash all vegetable. Finely chop cucumbers, tomatoes, pepper and onion. Combine in a large mixing bowl with chopped cilantro. Drain and rinse beans and add to chopped vegetables. Add corn. If using canned corn instead of fresh, drain off liquid prior to adding to vegetables.
In a small bowl, mix together ranch dressing packet, vinegar, and sugar. Pour dressing over vegetables and mix well. Serve immediately or refrigerate until chilled.
Yield: Makes 10, 1 cup
Kentucky Proud Project University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Agents for Family and Consumer Sciences and Nutrition and Food Science students.
Jane Proctor is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for family and consumer services.