Oops! I made a boo-boo!
I eat this wonderful vegetable all summer long and have never written
about it. I owe cucumbers a big apology! In my defense, most people forget
about this ubiquitous summer vegetable because it sits unassumingly atop
our restaurant salads all year long. It doesn’t dominate with flavor; it just
adds a cool crisp crunch. It’s mild flavor and constant presence make us
tend to take it for granted. Let’s celebrate this yummy summer treat right
Cool Crisp Summer Treat
Cucumbers grow best in warm but not hot conditions. When the temperature is consistently above 90, like in the deep south, cucumbers get bitter so they are not available in local farmers markets after early June. Where temps are milder cucumbers can be found all summer long.
Nourishment and Hydration
As The Creator planned, we need cucumbers in summer for their ability to hydrate our hot sweaty bodies perfectly; cucumbers are natural Gatorade. One large cucumber has only 45 calories but yields 2g of fiber and 2g of protein. It also has a trace of sodium, 442mg of potassium, and a fair amount of magnesium, phosphorus and manganese; much needed minerals to prevent electrolyte imbalance during intense sweating.
More Than Electrolytes
Recent research on cucumber extracts and animals show that the phytonutrients in cucumbers have the ability to block signaling pathways required for cancer cell development. Cucumbers also contain three types of lignans linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer. Besides cancer protection, cucumbers also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Although preliminary, animal research shows inhibition of the COX-2 inflammatory enzymes and prevention of overproduction of nitric oxide.
If the only cucumber you ever taste is the greenhouse-grown, dark green-skinned ones thrown unceremoniously on top of iceberg lettuce salads at cheap restaurants, you are in for a real treat when you learn how to select a good cucumber and prepare it at home. See the picture up above right? Those are “pickling” cucumbers. They are about 5 inches long and have mottled green and white skins. The seeds are small and inoffensive; the skin is thin, edible and also inoffensive. They are perfect for salads, pickles, or plain. Slice some up into discs and serve alongside hummus. Slice some into spears and make the simple Refrigerated Kosher Dills recipe below. We enjoy fresh cucumbers every night chopped with a homegrown tomato, avocado, sweet onion and apple cider vinegar. On a good night we add some chopped fresh figs, a peach, or mango to the tomato-cucumber salad. Sorry, I dun went ta braggin’ now.
In other seasons, I buy the long English cucumbers wrapped in plastic, and always buy organic. These cucumbers can be scary because they are so long. I unwrap them to the length I want to eat at the time, cut that amount and wrap the rest back up so it will stay fresh. Cucumbers break down quickly once they are cut so they are only good when eaten immediately after slicing. English cucumbers also have inoffensive skin and seeds.
Like I said, God made these wonderful vegetables for a reason and they should be represented respectably on our plates, at least in the summer. Check out these recipes and tips for enjoying cucumbers and buy some today!