Cucumber - the cool one
Fr: le concombre Ge: die Gurke
It: il cetriolo Sp: el
Some may like it hot, but if you
don't, then the cool cucumber is for you. Pardon my pun on
the 'cool as a cucumber' but there is much truth in that saying.
In fact, the inside of a cucumber growing in the hot sun on the
vine, is about 20° cooler than the air.
Cucumber is a member of the gourd
family as is melon, courgette (zucchini) or squash such as
pumpkin and originated in India where it spread to Asia.
Somehow the Romans brought it to Europe. Records show the
cucumber was known in 9th century France, 14th century in
England and North America around the mid 16th century.
Other than some fibre, the
cucumber is low in nutrients with negligible beta carotene in the
skin. Once peeled, then that is gone. One would have to
eat large amounts to benefit from the Vit. C, potassium, and
iron cucumber contains. But no matter! Nutrients
aren't everything as cucumbers have other properties that are
important - such as silicea and sulfur which stimulate the
kidneys to release uric acid. They also contain an enzyme
that splits protein and helps clean the intestines.
The diuretic action helps rid the
body of accumulated fluid within pockets of the body such as
under the eyes, abdomen and extremities. In short, though
cucumbers have a lot of water, they help stimulate the lymphatic
system release unwanted excess and detox the body as well as
help alkalize the blood.
The cucumber is refreshing, gives crunch to a salad, is the
perfect diet snack and what would that English classic, the
cucumber sandwich be without them?
The long cucumbers are smooth and
have fewer seeds and are considered the 'salad' variety with the
shorter ones for pickling, or even cooking. However, the
shorter ones are also used for salad and in fact some people
prefer them. I do.
How to Choose:
Cucumbers are eaten 'green' or
rather, 'under-ripe'. Don't look for the longest as these
may be bitter and may indicate a ripe cucumber. Choose the
medium or shorter ones that are firm and feel heavy for their
size. Of the shorter varieties, look for a bumpy but not
coarsely so, surface, firm and dark green. With these as
well, pick out the medium to shorter cucumbers.
Once home, cut off the end and
discard. Cut another thin slice and taste it. If it
is bitter, discard the cucumber. It is too old and there
is no trick (that works) to remove the bitter taste.
Cucumber salads should be prepared
just before serving to retain the crispness, however, some
people prefer them wilted as they release their water content
If you don't want the cucumber to
water down your salad, cut them as you will use them, sprinkle
over salt and allow to sit for an hour refrigerated. Drain
and dry on paper towelling before continuing with your recipe.
This works especially well when mixed with other ingredients
such as for a tzatziki dip and avoids the problem of a thinned
product if it is not served immediately.
- Often cooked in Asian dishes, the French like them also
braised. Don't be put off by this method. Think
courgette - cooked or raw, both ways are delicious. Search
online for 'cooked cucumbers' and you will be surprised at the
- Dill and mint are perfect matches and enhance the cooling
effect of them. Chives, of course are also a good choice.
- Yes, of course! Isn't that how you know them
best? Grated for a Greek tzatziki dip with plenty of
garlic and dill or sliced thinly for a sweet and sour salad...or
just as they are - delicious!
- Cream, feta or blue cheese and sour cream with smoked
salmon, crab or shrimps are just a few ways to serve them.
Slice in thick rings and using an apple corer, remove the centre
and fill. Alternatively, slice lengthways, core and stuff.
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