May is National Salad Month. Created by the Association for Dressing and Sauces in 1992, National Salad Month encourages people to incorporate more salads into their daily food regimen.
One of the most versatile vegetables you can eat is the cucumber. While a great addition atop any garden or chef salad, the cucumber is also a popular ingredient when tossed with a little vinegar and seasoning and paired with other veggies like onions and olives. It’s great in a smoothie, paired with fresh melon or even used in fragrances. It’s equally versatile in its presentation. Whether sliced thin or longways, spiraled into thin strips or used as a roll-up or “boat” to hold other ingredients, the cucumber is as unique as it is delicious. Personally, I like to sprinkle a little salt on a sliced cucumber as a simple side dish.
USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) understands the importance of this vital vegetable and supports research that is leading to stronger, healthier, more disease-resistant cucumber varieties.
Purdue University in Indiana is turning the table on a key vegetable pest: the cucumber beetle. Scientists are developing hyper-attractive chemicals that maximize trap catch for the beetle, which routinely ranks as the top insect pest among vegetable growers nationwide, not just in cucumbers but across all crop types. The goal is to comprehensively test chemical combinations that are reliable and capture large, economically relevant numbers of the beetles, followed by a targeted assessment of the use of the developed lures for in-field management, resulting in cucumber beetle suppression and increased crop yields.
Michigan State University is harnessing genomic resources for disease resistance and management in cucumbers. Scientists are developing novel advanced genetic mapping tools for cucurbit crops, using genomic approaches to identify, map and develop markers for resistances to priority diseases and introducing them into advanced breeding lines. (Cucurbit crops are plants of the gourd family and include melon, pumpkin, squash and cucumbers.) The group will then perform multi-location trials of resistances to improve integrated disease management and assess economic impacts.
Texas Woman’s University is developing cucumber varieties with improved flavor for fresh consumption. Scientists are investigating components of cucumber flavor and sensory preferences and working to understand the genetic basis of flavor-enhancing traits.
Projects such as these will lead to better-tasting and more disease-resistant cucumbers for both producers and consumers.