If you enjoy cucumbers in your salads or on your sandwiches, you are not alone. Cucumbers, which originated in India about 3,000 years ago, are the world’s fourth most cultivated vegetable and are thought of as one of nature’s superfoods.
They are packed with the following vitamins and minerals: Vitamins B2, B3, B5 and B6, Vitamin C, folic acid, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and zinc.
Technically fruits, cucumbers are in the same plant family as squashes and melons. Although we usually think of cucumbers as the dark green smooth-skinned variety that is a common site in grocery store produce sections, cucumbers actually come in many textures, colors, shapes and sizes. They all can be divided into two types, however: slicing and pickling cucumbers.
Today, American consumers are able to get cucumbers for three-fourths of the year from the growers in Florida and California. During the winter, however, most U.S. supermarkets carry cucumbers from Mexico. Commercially grown cucumbers are usually sprayed with pesticides, so it is important – especially if you want to eat the nutritious outer layer – to buy organic cucumbers or to grow them yourself in your own garden.
With a content of 90 percent water, you probably already know that cucumbers can be refreshing this time of year. But did you know there are many other surprising uses for cucumber? Here are some of our favorites:
1. Headache relief: Headaches are often caused by a lack of certain nutrients or by dehydration. The water content, sugar, vitamin B and electrolytes in cucumbers work to replenish those lost nutrients in the body. Eating cucumbers can even help ease the effects of a hangover.
2. Energy boost: Forget the chemicals in energy drinks and go for a natural boost by placing some fresh cucumber slices in a carafe of fresh water. When you drink the water, the cucumber’s B Vitamins and carbohydrates can provide a refreshing pick-me-up when you are tired.
3. Calming effect: When the nutrients of cucumber combine with boiling water, it can have a calming effect. The steam that results can bring a calming, relaxing feeling to those who inhale it.
4. Eye soother: When you place a slice of cucumber over each eyelid and lie down for five to 10 minutes, the healing properties work to soothe tired eyes and even help to decrease the appearance of dark circles under the eyes.
5. Breath freshener: Cucumbers contain phytochemicals that work to destroy the bacteria that can cause bad breath. Simply place a slice of cucumber under the roof of your mouth and hold it there with your tongue for about 30 seconds.
6. Prevent mirror fog: Does your bathroom mirror routinely get fogged up when you take a shower? Try rubbing a cucumber slice along the inner edges of the mirror. It not only reduces the fog, but it smells great as it works.
7. Skin tightener: Those phytochemicals help tighten your skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and of cellulite. It’s simple: Just gently rub a few slices of cucumber along your problem skin areas.
8. Shoe shiner: When you rub cucumber slices over your shoes, you can give them a shine and, at the same time, help protect them from water damage.
9. Erase wall marks: If a little artist in your family has applied ink, crayon or marker to you walls, try rubbing a whole cucumber to safely and gently remove the stain.
10. Squeaky hinge prevention: Instead of getting out the WD-40 for an annoying door hinge, simply rub a cucumber slice along the trouble spot.
11. Slug control: Slugs dislike the smell of cucumbers. To keep the destructive pests out of your garden, place several slices of cucumber in a small aluminum can or in a pie tin. The chemicals from the cucumbers will react with the metal to drive the slugs away.
12. Sunburn relief: To ease the pain and discomfort of sunburn, place some cool, thin slices of cucumber on the affected area until the cucumber begins to feel warm.
Cucumbers are surprisingly easy to grow, and as with most foods, you’ll find you enjoy the taste of homegrown cucumbers better than that of store-bought ones. You can grow them in the ground, but, since they like to climb, they also do well in a large container that can hold a trellis. Cucumbers like plenty of sun and consistent watering. Be sure to keep an eye on them because they grow very quickly and seem to sprout fruit overnight.
Bush and vining are the two main types of cucumbers. Bush cucumbers are more compact and have smaller yields than the vining variety. Now that you know some of the many uses of cucumber, you can extend your season and your harvest by planting varieties with different growing times in succession.
What other uses have you found for cucumbers? Tell us in the section below: