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Cool Food

July 25, 2014

As cool as a cucumber is a much used phrase, referring to a state of mind rather than the clean crunch of the pale green flesh of a cucurbit, but it is true.  There isn’t a summer fruiting food cooler than a cucumber.  When the weather wilts you, a cucumber is nature’s tasty refreshment. 

Cucumbers are a member of a large diverse family of summer ripening crops, including melons and squash.  So it begs the question; is it a fruit or vegetable?  Because botanists define food that develops from the flower of a plant as fruit, cucumbers like tomatoes, and many other surprising foods, such as avocados, corn, beans and peas, are, scientifically speaking, classified as fruit.  With its unassuming flavor, cucumbers are versatile in ways that other fruits and vegetables aren’t.  

 

Cucumbers also possess beneficial antioxidant compounds and are low in calories, as well as the following health benefits:

 

  • Fights heat, both inside and out. Eat cucumber, and your body gets relief from heartburn. Apply cucumber on your skin, and you get relief from sunburn.

  • Flushes out toxins. All that water in cucumber acts as a virtual broom, sweeping waste products out of your system. With regular use, cucumber is known to help to dissolve kidney stones.

  • Contains skin-friendly vitamins and minerals: Magnesium, potassium, silicon and Vitamin A, B, and C, which boost immunity, give you energy, and keep you radiant. Give it more power by juicing cucumber with carrot and spinach.

  • Cuts cancer. Study show that cucumbers help to cut down your risk of several different types of cancers. 

  • Stabilizes blood pressure. Patients of blood pressure, both high and low, often find that eating cucumber brings relief.

  • Refreshes the mouth. Cucumber juice refreshes and heals diseased gums, leaving your mouth smelling good.

  • Smoothes hair and nails. Silica, the wonder mineral in cucumber makes your hair and nails stronger and shinier.

  • Soothes muscle and joint pain. All those vitamins and minerals in cucumber make it a powerful enemy of muscle and joint pain.

  • Keeps kidneys in shape. Cucumber lowers uric acid levels in your system, keeping the kidneys happy.

  • Good for diabetics. Patients of diabetes can enjoy cucumber while also reaping its health benefits: cucumber contains a hormone needed by the cells of the pancreas for producing insulin.

  • Reduces cholesterol. A compound called sterols in cucumber helps reduce bad cholesterol.

 

For all their wonderful qualities, cucumbers can, at times, be slightly bitter and it’s important when choosing them at the market to select smaller fruit.  Cucumbers are often sprayed with pesticides, so use organic cucumbers as much as possible.  Young cucumbers will likely have smaller seeds and are usually sweeter.  English or Hot House cucumbers are longer than most other varieties and have a thin, tender skin, so they are great to leave unpeeled.  

When choosing cucumbers for pickling, look for the nubby, small cucumbers (often called “pickling cucumbers”) for the best results. There is also an interesting type of cucumber called lemon cucumbers. They’re called “lemon” not because of the taste, but because they are about the size of a lemon and yellow-colored when ripe.  When at their best, cucumbers of all kinds can bring a whole new type of cool to your summertime meals. 

Cucumbers are the perfect addition to salads, slaws, and other cold dishes.  They add a fresh crispness to cool soups, which are especially good for warm season meals.  Cucumbers can also be shaped into interesting edible containers to hold more strongly flavored dips and stuffings.

Cucumbers of all varieties are loved for their texture as much as their taste.  Since cucumbers are approximately 95% water, they could be considered a fibrous, pleasantly flavored thirst quencher..  My simple recipe for CUCUMBER LEMONADE is the perfect way to use cucumbers to refresh and rehydrate during the dog days of summer.

 

 

Cucumber Lemonade:

Makes 2 large servings

 

If you don’t want to blend and strain your ingredients, you can slice the organic cucumber and lemon, combine them with the water and sugar and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to flavor the water.

 

5 cups cold water 
1 large organic cucumber (peeled and cubed) 
juice of 1 large lemon 

1/2 tablespoon stevia, honey or sugar, as desired

 

Using a blender, juicer, or food processor, combine the cucumber with water until the mixture is smooth.  Strain the mixture over a pitcher or large bowl using a fine mesh strainer, and discarding the solids (you won’t have to do this step if using a juicer).  Combine the cucumber mixture with the lemon juice and the stevia, honey or sugar.  Pour over ice cubes and serve immediately.

 

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