On a hot day, some foods are much more refreshing than others. When it comes to vegetables, cucumbers are as cooling as a mountain spring.
The cooling effects of cucumbers are largely attributed to cucurbitin and fatty oils present in the seeds, and local writer Jennifer Yamaguchi writes that the fourth widely cultivated veggie in the world is extremely healthy for the human body—both internally and externally.
The low calorie fruit of the cucumber is loaded with cancer fighting vitamins as well as dietary fiber which helps to eliminate toxic compounds from the gut, writes Yamaguchi. Cucumbers contain potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K. And when it comes to external beauty, the soothing and cooling properties of cucumbers are equally amazing.
Just as the days begin to be scorchingly hot, my pickle harvest has been going off. And by going off I mean producing pickles the size of small babies. At one point there were so many that I couldn't open my fridge without them spilling out.
This has given me ample opportunity to experiment with the culinary and beautifying effects of cucumbers.
Here are six tried and true ways to consume these healthy and refreshing fruits:
1. Cucumber Salad!
Aside from eating them straight off the vine, a raw cucumber salad is the easiest way to eat them. My favorite at the moment is a Sunomono style cucumber salad (featured in the article photo.) It has a nice and delicate flavor and is perfect as a side to fish or Asian cuisine.
Cut cucumbers as thin as possible. To taste, add: A dash of Mirin sweet cooking wine (optional), a dash of sesame oil, and a few dashes of rice vinegar (not optional, this is what makes it so good.) Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve cold. Like most things made with cucumbers, this recipe is even better the next day.
Cucumber Tomato Salad:
Mix thinly cut cucumbers, fresh tomato slices and thinly cut red onions with a balsamic dressing. For best results, mix the dressing first, with one part balsamic vinegar. To make extremely delicious dressing, reduce the vinegar with a dab of mustard and honey or similar sweetener. Then add to one part extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and minced garlic. Drizzle over cucumbers and tomatoes and enjoy!
2. Cucumber and Cream Cheese Sandwich
This one is a simple classic, and could not be left out. For some reason, cucumbers and cream cheese go extremely well together. Cucumber sandwiches are historically associated with the Victorian era upper classes of Great Britain, often served at tea time, according to a fascinating wikipedia article on cucumber sandwiches.
Don't be scared off by the seemingly involved process of pickling. This recipe for the World's Easiest Sweet Dill Pickles is a tried and true variation that does not require actual canning. (Note: if you have access to fresh grape leaves, throw one in the bottom of each pickle jar, they really do help keep your pickles crispy!)
If you're not into the sweet pickles, try this recipe for Spicy Garlic Dills, provided by a "Lorren", a friend of Lea Ziminy of Connecticut:
Spicy Garlic Dills:
"Boil 1/2 white vinegar, 1/2 (organic) apple cider vinegar, and sea salt (enough to cover your cukes) - layer cucumbers, lots of garlic (sliced & whole clove), pickling spices, dill & whole dill flower heads in a jar or crock - pour hot vinegar blend over them and you should be all set. They get better by the day. You can fridge them after a about a day."
4. Cucumber Beverages
Add cucumber slices to your water and you multiply its thirst quenching qualities by a hundred. The same goes for most juices, and if you're looking to make an adult drink, try cucumber infused vodka, or this recipe for Cucumber and Basil Slush.
5. Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese Cucumber Rounds (see a picture in article photos.)
Cream cheese is never the healthiest of foods, but if you're going to eat it you might as well subtract the guilt of eating it on crackers or bread. This is a simple way to make divinely decadent hors d'oeuvres without thecarbs.
For this recipe simple blend fresh locks with cream cheese, lemon zest, and fresh ground pepper. Spread on cucumber slices.
6. Beauty Treatments!
Cucumbers are an age old beauty treatment, especially for tired eyes. In her article about cucumbers, Yamaguchi writes:
"Human skin and the cucumbers share the same hydration level. It’s an anti-inflammatory, hence the wonderful cooling effect when pressed gently over the eyes."
Cut a few generous slices and relax with them over your eye lids—this remedy is said to decrease dark circles. Yamaguchi also credits them with the ability to diminish freckles over time, and as a good soothing remedy for sunburn.