Dear Heloise:

I've discovered a great way to keep my cucumbers crisp and juicy! Right after I pick them, I put a dab of paraffin on the end where the vine was.

This keeps the moisture from escaping and really keeps them fresh.

Mary Himmelberg

Republic, Mo.

Mary, your idea got us to thinking about cucumbers that are store-bought and nonorganic. They are so green, shiny and good-looking. We have since found out that they are usually covered with wax. This coating helps to prevent shrinkage, preserve moisture, deter fungus and mold, and enhance the appearance.

This wax coating does not wash off with water, and you can't really scrub it off, either. It is safe to eat, but it just passes through the body without being absorbed. Some people peel the cucumber before eating.

Also, keep in mind, if you want to do the above hint, that paraffin wax is flammable if allowed to overheat. So, keep a close eye on it when heating, and follow label directions exactly.

Dear Heloise:

To get all the salt out of the salt container, cut off the lid -- you will be amazed how much salt is still in the container.

Betty Jo in Atlanta

Dear Heloise:

To give my iced tea a different flavor, I add a teaspoon or two of powdered flavored drink mix. It's delicious, and I enjoy trying different flavors.

Diana Jenkins in Tennessee

Here in South Texas, we love our iced tea all year long! There are more than 3,000 varieties of tea, so you should be able to find one that will become your favorite. Tea is fat-free, has no calories, sugar or salt, and most have half the amount of caffeine that coffee has.

Did you know that cloudy tea could be caused by minerals in the water or by being refrigerated too soon after brewing? Try using bottled or filtered water, and let the tea stand at room temperature for an hour after steeping. If the tea turns murky in the refrigerator, add a cup of boiling water for each quart of tea -- it should clear up the cloudiness. Remember, it will also dilute the tea, so add less ice.

Send a money- or time-saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or e-mail it to Heloise@Heloise.com. Please include your city and state when faxing or using e-mail. I can't answer your letter personally but will use the best hints received in my column.

(c)2004, King Features Syndicate