Morning dawned crisp and clear last Saturday, perfect for some early cardio before heading off to work. Two blocks from home I passed a lot that had recently been converted to a community garden in which there was a surprising hum of activity for so early in the morning. A dozen or so cheerful gardeners in broad straw hats filled bushel baskets and reusable sacks with a succulent variety of ripe vegetables – squashes, tomatoes, spring onions, kale, spinach, peas and cauliflowers. I nodded to several and said my “good mornings,” marveling at how healthy and lovely the fruits of their labor looked. However, as I approached the end of the lot, one lone gardener stared at his parcel in obvious dismay.
“I’ll be in pickles for life,” he mumbled, wiping his brow and scratching his head.
“Pardon me?” I asked, not sure if he was talking to me.
“Oh….sorry. It’s just…..what am I gonna do with all these cucumbers?”
Laid out before him was a meandering row of cucumber plants and what looked to be hundreds of ripe, green cucumbers ready for harvesting.
“One measly row – that’s all I planted. I mean, I’m kind of new to this gardening thing. I figured half of them wouldn’t survive, with all the rabbits and squirrels running loose around here.” He sighed, “I mean, really, what can I possibly do with all these cucumbers?”
I shrugged and turned to resume my jog. “Pickles aren’t so bad,” I said. But before I could make my escape the gardener side-stepped in front of me holding up two fists of cucumbers.
“Wait. Take some. Please. Just one basket….or two. I just can’t deal with this many cucumbers.”
An unsettling look came over the man. Maniacal, almost. And his hands began to shake. Instinctively, I started backing away.
“Um, no. Really, I’m just out for a quick jog. I wouldn’t have the faintest idea what to do with all those cucumbers,” I said and turned quickly and scooted away. About a block away I stole a glance over my shoulder. That crazy gardener was still standing there, cucumber –laden hands outstretched in my direction.
Forty minutes later I returned home to find a bushel basket of cucumbers perched on my front porch. In that instant, two alarming questions rushed simultaneously to mind: How did he know where I live? And what can I possibly do with all these cucumbers?
It was time for some research. Turns out, cucumbers are remarkably versatile. Not only are they surprisingly nutritious vegetables and excellent sources of Vitamins A, B, C and K as well as Pantothenic Acid, Magnesium, Phosphorus, and Manganese, but they are also the main ingredient in several useful household and beauty remedies many of which I’m sharing for you here – 12 things you can do with the garden variety cucumber:
- Cucumber Tomato Salad: Slice and quarter two large tomatoes. Peel and slice one large cucumber. Chop four green onions. Mix these together and set aside. In a small bowl, combine 1 Tbsp sugar, 1 tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper. Whisk in 1/3 cup cider vinegar and 1 cup water. Pour this mixture over the vegetables and toss. Refrigerate for 4 hours, and then serve.
- Treat that Hangover: If you’ve had a bit to drink, try eating a few slices of cucumbers before going to bed. The cucumbers help to restore many of the vitamins and nutrients that you lose when drinking alcohol and allow you to wake up the next day headache free.
- Cucumber Water: Add a few cucumber slices to an icy cold pitcher of water for a refreshing beverage. The water is great for you and the cucumbers also act as a diuretic which helps you reduce water weight.
- Fried Cucumbers: Peel and slice two cucumbers. Roll them in cornmeal and fry them in olive oil for a delicious treat.
- Cucumber Soup: Here’s a refreshing treat on a hot summer’s evening. Peel and chop two cucumbers. Puree with one cup each of plain, low-fat yogurt and sour cream. Add a cup of chicken broth, along with salt, pepper, garlic powder and dill to taste. Mix it all together and refrigerate for two hours before serving.
- Cucumber Sandwiches: A perfect shower or tea party treat.
½ cup of low-fat cream cheese
1 thinly sliced cucumber
Lemon juice to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Dried parsley or chopped fresh chives to taste
Spread two slices of bread evenly with cream cheese. Cover one piece of bread with cucumber slices. Season with lemon juice and seasonings. Press the slices together, cut off the crusts, and slice the sandwich diagonally two times to create four triangular finger sandwiches.
- Energize: Instead of reaching for a coffee or soft drink in the middle of the afternoon, eat a few slices of cucumber. Loaded with B-vitamins and healthy carbs, cucumbers will perk you right back up without the negative effects of caffeinated beverages.
- Banish Bags Under the Eyes: This is an ages-old beauty secret. Since cucumbers are comprised largely of water, they have a hydrating effect and tend to alleviate dark, puffy bags that form under the eyes. They’re most effective when used right out of the frig because they’re colder than the skin and therefore reduce the puffiness.
- Cucumber Bite Appetizers: A yummy appetizer for any occasion.
4 ounces of low-fat cream cheese
½ Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp dried Italian seasoning
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 large cucumber, sliced slightly diagonally
½ cup prepared hummus
1/3 cup chopped tomato
¼ cup chopped Kalamata olives
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbs chopped green onions
In a mixing bowl, cream together cream cheese, lemon juice, Italian seasoning and garlic until smooth. Scoop heaping teaspoonsful of the mixture onto cucumber slices and spread. Spoon a little hummus on top of the cream cheese and sprinkle with tomato, olives, feta and green onion. Serve cold.
- Exfoliating Cucumber Bath Scrub: A popular scrub for hot summer days.
¼ cup fresh, chopped cucumber
1 Tbs fresh mint leaves
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 ounce cucumber seed oil
¼ tsp essential peppermint oil
½ cup Dead Sea Salt, fine
Combine the first four ingredients in a blender or food processor until well pureed. Transfer to a small bowl and add the last two ingredients. Mix well the use immediately.
- Cucumber Smoothies: Blend together a sliced cucumber, 3 cups honeydew melon, 3 cups of ice cubes and some fresh mint. Garnish with mint and a slice of cucumber.
- Make Pickles: Try that recipe handed down by your grandmother or check out these basic pickling instructions and recipes from www.pickyourown.org.