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How is your garden doing these days? Even with all the rain, my cucumbers are growing like crazy so I figured it’s time for at least one recipe to start using the little buggers up.

There are many varieties of cucumbers, and my personal favorite to grow is the smaller pickling variety. I don’t pickle them; we just like how they taste. They are also easier to give to the grandkids when they come over. But no matter what type you like, there seems to be nothing more refreshing in the warm weather than a cool cuke to munch on.

The saying “cool as a cucumber” is an apt one. Growing in a field on a hot summer day, the interior flesh of a cuke is a good 20 degrees cooler than the outside air temperature. If you are growing your own, it is best to harvest them early in the morning before they have a chance to get warmed by the sun, and refrigerate them immediately. You can store them for up to three days before using them. However, in my house they won’t last that long. We eat them as I pick them, just like my tomatoes.

Supermarket cukes are covered with an edible wax to protect them from moisture loss. That wax gives them an unnatural sheen, whereas fresh cukes are almost dull in color. But the duller color is easy to deal with when you actually taste a fresh versus supermarket cuke.

Cukes add an unmistakable snap to a salad or sandwich; however, they are not a good source of nutrients. The highest nutrient in the cuke is water. A little bit of beta carotene is in the peel, but once you peel it the level drops to about zero. A small raw cuke only has about five calories, so go ahead and treat yourself; you aren’t hurting anything.

You can serve cukes with the peel on or off; it really doesn’t matter. Or you can score the outside, which means run a fork over it before slicing and give it a little different look in your salad or sandwich. If you’ve never put a slice or two in a sandwich, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s absolutely wonderful.

After playing around with cucumbers in recipes, a friend and I came up with a quick little cucumber jelly that goes extremely well with cold meat or fish. The jelly is used just as you would any other jelly — spread it on your bread or fish and enjoy. I find it has a light, refreshing taste and it also keeps well in the fridge for some time. Where you make it yourself, you know the ingredients are all natural.

Also, the battle still rages over whether the cuke is a fruit or vegetable. Most of us would answer “veggie,” but cucumbers are a member of the fruit family. Cukes have seeds which are used for reproduction, hence it’s a fruit. Either way, it’s a sign of hot summer weather when you purchase fresh ones from a roadside stand or pick one just as the sun comes up.

Today’s recipe is pretty simple to do, and I do believe you will find it a nice addition to any fish or cold meat you serve up.

Remember, stay ‘cool as a cucumber’ as the dog days of summer knock on our door.

POWDERHORN CUCUMBER JELLY

6 medium cucumbers

3 packages of unflavored gelatin

1/2 cup of cold water

2 cups boiling water

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon grated onion, or onion flakes

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 drops of green food coloring

1/4 cup pimentos

Peel, chop, remove seeds then grate the cukes. Wrap it all in a kitchen towel, for about 20 minutes, to absorb the moisture.

Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water, then add the boiling water and stir until the gelatin is dissolved. Then add in the vinegar, onion, salt and food coloring. Put the entire mixture into the fridge until slightly thickened. Stir in the shredded cukes and pimentos.

Pour it all into a glass bowl or ring mold and chill for up to 4 hours before serving. It will be very firm when it’s ready.

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