Cool as a cucumber!

My friends, cucumbers have changed! When I was growing up, cucumbers were fat and stubby with waxy skins and big, blah seeds. They were relegated to three uses: a garnish on the plate, sliced in a salad, or finely sliced in little tea sandwiches with butter on white bread. Honestly not a major player, nothing spectacular. The texture was unexciting, the seeds were annoying, the skin was bitter. Meh.

Oh, there was one other cucumber use! Me and my friends all put them on our eyes :) We had sleepover dates, in which we would rummage through our mother’s beauty supplies, slather our faces with face masks and put cucumber slices over our eyelids to get rid of puffy eyes. (Really? Did we really need to worry about puffy eyes?) We listened to Seals and Crofts “Summer Breeze,” face masks hardening on our faces like cement. Straight out of a Patty Duke Show.

Cucumber as food

At some point I realized that you could EAT cucumbers. And in recent decades new varieties have emerged that are… delicious! And nutritious. They’re super high in vitamins A, B and C, making them count as immune boosters. They are, in fact, filled with skin-friendly minerals, especially magnesium and potassium, and they are intensely hydrating (one can easily replace a glass of water), making them excellent spa treatments. 

These days they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, which I discovered at my Marin County farmers market. 

  • The regular old kind.  To be fair, once you remove the skin and seeds, they’re great for salads.
     
  • Gerkins. The little ones, used for pickles. (Yes! Pickles are secretly cucumbers.)
     
  • Persian cucumbers. I’m obsessed with these. Only about 4” in length, the seeds are tiny, the skin is really thin, and they are super crispy and crunchy. (I LOVE crispy and crunchy!). You can actually hold these in your hand and bite right in. Sweet and mild tasting, they provide a refreshing explosion in your mouth! A perfect food for summer.
     
  • English cucumbers.  The really long ones, like a spy glass, that are usually wrapped in plastic in supermarkets to keep them from drying out. They too have skin, small seeds, and are “burpless.” 
     
  • Lemon cucumbers. Small, light yellow, and round. Pretty to look at, but rather blah in taste and texture. Oh, well!
     
  • Armenian cucumbers. Swervy and curvy. Similar to Persians in the crisp bite.

Cucumber, what should I do with you?

I love cucumbers from the culinary point of view. The flavor and texture is crunchy but mild, and plays well with mint, parsley, chives, vinegar, chile, ginger, yogurt, seafood, and feta. Think fresh cucumber, mint and dill salad. Or tzaziki, the classic Lebanese dish with yogurt, cucumbers, mint, and lemon juice. 

Here are some great ones!

Avocado lovers will go ga-ga over the taste and those of you into cool or room-temperature soups will embrace the clean, fresh feel of this blend. Avocados are one of those great superfoods, full of good fats and vitamins. They’re fun to work with, and all of the great shades of green in this soup are like preparing a beautiful watercolor that you can eat.

 

I love this salad. I dream about this salad. It’s a variation on fattoush, a fabulously named Mediterranean salad. This is the freshest, cleanest salad I can imagine, like a nice healthy workout for the tastebuds. Like most workouts, you’ll feel wonderful after you finish :)

IF YOU ARE STILL STUCK ON THE REGULAR OLD CUCUMBER, JUMP INTO THE 21ST CENTURY! ENJOY THE GORGEOUS VARIETIES AVAILABLE IN MARKETS. THE PERFECT SUMMER FOOD.