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Cucumbers are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables and are thought to have originated in northern India. Later, early explorers and travelers introduced them to other parts of Asia. The ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, and Rome were well acquainted with cucumbers as a part of their diets and
for their beneficial healing properties for the skin. Greenhouse cultivation of this delightful vegetable began under Louis XIV of France, who enjoyed them very much. Early colonists brought the plants to the New World as a part of the provisions for starting the colonies. While we don’t know where the pickling process began (or began it), we do know that Roman emperors imported pickles from Spain during ancient days.
The saying “cool as a cucumber” is not to be ignored. Because of their high water content, cucumbers have a very cool and refreshing flavor. While the meat of the cucumber is mostly water, it also has vitamin C and caffeic acid, which are useful for soothing skin irritations, reducing swelling, and can be used as a natural diuretic by preventing water retention.
The skin of cucumbers is high in dietary fiber and contains a variety of beneficial minerals including silica, potassium, and magnesium. The silica in cucumbers is an essential component of healthy muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bones. Juice of the cucumber is recommended to improve the complexion of one’s skin, and its high water content makes it a natural way to rehydrate oneself, which is a must for the skin’s healthy glow. You can use cucumbers topically for various skin problems, including swelling, bags under the eyes, and sunburn.
Do you suffer from high blood pressure? Try adding cucumber slices to your daily diet routine. Recent studies show that foods high in potassium, magnesium, and fiber can help you drop your blood pressure naturally. Those in the study who ate a diet rich in these compounds (as well as low-fat dairy foods, seafood, lean meat and poultry) were able to lower their blood pressure by 5.5 points systolic [upper number] and 3.0 points diastolic [lower number].
- 100 grams of cucumbers contain just 15 calories. They have no fat or cholesterol, and their high fiber content helps reduce constipation and may protect against colon cancer.
- Cucumbers are a great source of potassium, which is a necessary electrolyte, is heart friendly, and can help reduce the heart rate by counter-acting the effects of sodium.
- Cukes contain good ratios of the anti-oxidants beta-carotene, a-carotene, Vitamins C and A, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These compounds play a role in the anti-aging fight and as a shield against various diseases.
- High quantities of vitamin K in cucumbers has been linked to promoting bone-mass-building activity. It has also been used in treatment of patients with Alzheimer’s disease to limit neuronal damage in the brain.
Obtaining fresh, good-quality cucumbers is as easy as going to your favorite grocery store or picking them from your family garden. No mater where you get them, wash your cucumbers well before using.
Preparing and Serving Suggestions
After washing, trim the ends from the cucumbers and rub the cut ends with the ends you removed to lessen the bitter taste cucumbers can have. (Smaller, younger cucumbers are often less bitter.)
- Eat fresh, clean cucumbers alone for a cool and refreshing snack.
- Cubed cucumbers can be a great addition to both fruit and veggie salads.
- Make a cucumber raita by mixing finely chopped, fresh cucumber slices with yogurt, cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper.
- Juice your cucumbers for a healthy and refreshing drink.
- Add fine cucumber slices to your favorite Spanish gazpacho or cucumber soup recipes. Or mix up this simple combination for a five-minute, cold soup sensation: pureed tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, green peppers, salt, and pepper. Use more or less of any ingredient to satisfy your taste buds.
- Add curls or strips of cucumber rind to your favorite pickles for a unique change of pace.
- Use half-inch cucumber slices as petite salad serving dishes for your next summer lawn party, picnic or barbeque.
- Make a cooling summer salad of diced cucumbers, sugar snap peas, and mint leaves. Toss with a rice wine vinaigrette.
- Add a new crunch to your favorite tuna or chicken salad recipes.
Enjoy more cucumbers, try a new form of “summer coolness” to beat the heat, and get healthier in the process. Happy gardening!