I Am A… Cucumber

Well, hello there, my name is Chellahumari (which as I’m sure you know, means “Precious Girl” in Hindi). I am a cheerful member of the cucumber family, one that includes such relatives as the watermelon, and various kinds of squash. Although people usually think of us as vegetables, we’re actually fruit—a creeping vine. We’re very happy to spread over the ground or climb up anything that’s handy. We have large leaves that form a protective canopy over our roughly cylindrical fruit.

We originated in India a very, very long time ago. People began to cultivate us at least 3,000 years ago, as we spread west into ancient Ur, Thrace (present day Turkey and Bulgaria, where we remain wildly popular), Greece, Rome, and later east to China.  The ever-clever Romans were particularly fond of cucumbers. Pliny the Elder reported that the Emperor Tiberius had us on his table every day of the year. As Pliny put it, “indeed, he was never without it; for he had raised beds made in frames on wheels, by means for which his cucumbers were moved and exposed to the full heat of the sun; while, in winter, they were withdrawn, and placed under the protection of frames glazed with mirrorstone. Reportedly, we were also cultivated in cucumber houses glazed with oiled cloth known as specularia.

In addition to enjoying us with their meals, the Romans used us to treat everything from scorpion bites to poor eyesight. Women desiring children wore us tied around their waists. We were also carried by midwives, then cast away, alas, when a child was born. Centuries later, the emperor Charlemagne grew cucumbers in his gardens in 9th century France. We were introduced to England in the 14th century, disappeared there, and then reappeared 250 years later. Columbus brought us to Haiti in 1494, and, mysteriously, the famous explorer Jacques Cartier, in 1535, found “very great cucumbers” growing on the site of what is now downtown Montreal.  There are many varieties of cucumber grown and enjoyed around the world.  The ones most familiar to North Americans include Slicing, Picking, and English. You almost certainly know all three of these. But have you ever tried a Lebanese or East Asian cuke? Or what about New Zealand’s Apple or India’s Dosakai cucumber, both yellow and round, the former enjoyed raw, skin and all, the latter a staple in Indian curries, daal, and chutneys?

We are 90% water, and contain both ascorbic and caffeic acid – both help soothe skin irritations (such as sunburn) and can help reduce swelling (many people use us to reduce swelling under the eyes after “staying up too late”). Our skin is rich in fiber, and contains a variety of beneficial minerals, including silica, potassium, iron, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and magnesium. We also contain vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, C, and folic acid.  As befits a fruit that’s been around for thousands of years, people have come up with some novel ways to use us. For example, feeling a little lethargic in the afternoon? Forget the cup of coffee or can of Red Bull, and pick up a cucumber instead.

Our combination of B vitamins and carbs can provide you an all-natural pick-me-up that can last for hours.  Tired of your bathroom mirror fogging up after a shower? Try rubbing a cucumber slice on the mirror, it will eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance. Looking for a fast and easy way to mask cellulite before going out or to the pool? Try rubbing a slice or two of cucumber along your problem area for a few minutes – our phytochemicals will cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite. Some swear it works on wrinkles too! Had a bit too much fun at the wedding last night? Worried about the inevitable hangover or pounding headache? Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and increase your chances of waking up refreshed and headache-free. Looking to fight off that afternoon or evening snacking binge? Cucumbers have been used for centuries and often used by European trappers, traders and explores for quick meals to thwart off hunger — we fill you up without filling you out. And finally, here’s my personal favorite (we do love to dress up). Have an important meeting or job interview, and you don’t have enough time to properly polish your shoes? Simply rub a freshly cut cucumber end over your leather pumps – its chemicals will provide a quick and durable shine that not only looks great, but also repels water. But enough of all that. Try us yourself – there are a few nice recipes here to help you explore how best to enjoy us.

Accha namaste,

Chellahumari Cucumber

ENGLISH CUCUMBER SALAD

English cucumbers tend to be long and narrow and have a mild taste. English cucumbers work best in this recipe.

1 Tbsp. (15 mL) finely chopped fresh rosemary 2 Tbsp. (30 mL) balsamic vinegar 2 Tbsp. (30 mL) olive oil 1 Tbsp. (15 mL) Dijon mustard 1 English cucumber with peel, washed and thinly sliced cracked black pepper, to taste

In a small saucepan, add the rosemary, vinegar, and olive oil. Heat over very low heat to blend and intensify the flavors, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the mustard until well blended. In a serving bowl, add the cucumber slices. Pour the dressing over the cucumbers and toss to coat evenly. Add the black pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve. (geniouskitchen.com)

CUCUMBER SNACK

Spread pumpernickel bread with mayonnaise, top with thin slices of cucumber, then sprinkle with lemon pepper – so easy and so good.

Louise Thomson – Strathmore, Alberta

Cucumbers are a very low calorie vegetable, containing just 15 calories per 100 g. They contain no saturated fats or cholesterol. Cucumber peel is a good source of dietary fiber that helps reduce constipation, and offers some protection against colon cancers by eliminating toxic compounds from the gut.

Cucumbers are a very good source of potassium, an important intracellular electrolyte. Potassium is a heart friendly electrolyte; it helps reduce blood pressure and heart rates by countering the effects of excess sodium. 

CHILI-CRUSTED SCALLOPS WITH CUCUMBER SALAD

This refreshing salad of cucumbers and roasted cashews compliments the smoky scallops. You can make the salad and scallop skewers up to 8 hours in advance; cover separately and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to grill.

  • Salad: 2 medium cucumbers
  • 1/2 Cup (120mL) salted roasted cashews, coarsely chopped
  • 2 scallions, (white and light green parts), thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) lemon juice
  • 1/4 Cup (60 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 Cup (60 mL) coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/8 (.5 mL) salt
  • Scallops: 1 tsp (5 mL) cumin seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 mL) minced seeded serrano Chile
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 pounds sea scallops

To prepare salad

Start by peeling and seeding the cucumbers; quarter lengthwise and slice 1/4 inch thick. Combine the cucumbers, cashews, scallions, lemon juice, oil, parsley, and salt in a large bowl.

To prepare scallops: Toast cumin seeds in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool, then coarsely chop. Combine the cumin seeds, chili, pepper, and salt in a small bowl. Rinse scallops, pat dry and rub with the spice mixture. Thread the scallops onto four 12-inch skewers. Preheat grill to medium-high. Oil the grill rack. Grill the scallops until cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Carefully remove the scallops from the skewers. Serve warm with the cucumber salad. (eatingwell.com)

Feeling tired in the afternoon? Put down the caffeinated soda and pick up a cucumber.  Cucumbers are a good source of B vitamins and carbohydrates that can provide a quick pick-me-up that can last for hours.

Cucumbers contain unique antioxidants, including B-carotene and α-carotene, vitamin-C, vitamin A, zea-xanthin and lutein. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes.

CREAMY CUCUMBER SOUP

  • 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) lemon juice
  • 4 Cups (960 ml) peeled, seeded and thinly sliced cucumbers, divided
  • 1 1/2 Cups (360 ml) vegetable broth or reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1.25 ml) freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/4 Cup (60 mL) chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 Cup (120 ml) low-fat plain yogurt

Start by heating oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 1 to 4 minutes. Add lemon juice and cook for 1 minute. Add 3 3/4 cups cucumber slices, broth, salt, pepper, and cayenne; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook at a gentle simmer until the cucumbers are soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the soup to a blender. Add avocado and parsley; blend on low speed until smooth (use caution when pureeing hot liquids). Pour into a serving bowl and stir in yogurt. Chop the remaining 1/4 cup cucumber slices. Serve the soup warm or refrigerate and serve it chilled. Just before serving, garnish with the chopped cucumber and more chopped parsley, if desired.  (eatingwell.com)

Cucumbers contain vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, folic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. They are mildly diuretic, likely due to their high water and potassium content, which helps in checking weight gain and high blood pressure.

Green is in!!

By: Kathryn Hartwell

Categories I AM A............, UncategorizedTags , , , , , ,

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