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Cucumber

Cucumber is a long cylindrical summer vegetable from the same family as squash. It is cooling, rich in vitamin C and fiber and a natural diuretic that also beautifies your skin. Cucumber refreshers the kitchen from salads to dips, soups and juices.

Cucumber
The thermal nature is cooling.
The flavour is .
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What it is

The cucumber is a creeping vine that grows over supporting frames or trellises. They fruit develops from a flower and with its enclosed seeds, this fruit of the plant is what is eaten. Scientifically the cucumber is a fruit, like tomatoes and squash, however, their flavor and nature contribute to them being seen as a vegetable. Vegetable is not a scientific classification; it is a culinary term that can be subjective.

Cucumbers are cylindrical, elongated with tapered ends. Small cucumbers, the size of a finger, are often pickled while larger varieties, used in salads and cooking, can grow as large as 60 cm long and 10 cm across. 

We tend to eat the immature unripe green form or the cucumber because the ripe cucumber becomes yellow and very bitter and sour.


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What is in it

Cucumber is a very good source of vitamin C and the mineral molybdenum; it is also a good source of fiber, the amino acid tryptophan, the minerals potassium, manganese and magnesium and vitamins A and folate.

Cucumbers also contain useable quantities of caffeic acid and silicon.


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What it is good for

The vitamin C and caffeic acid in cucumbers both purify your skin and cleans your blood. The skin is high in fiber and includes silicon.

Cucumber is a natural Diuretic, also,
• Quenches thirst
• Moistens the lungs
• Purifies the skin
• Aids digestion (particularly when pickled)
• Treats effects of summer heat
• Treats burns, notably sunburn 
• Helps treat kidney and bladder infections
• Cleanses the intestines

The cooling nature of cucumber also sooths and help treat most inflammatory or heat conditions including;
• Sore throat 
• Conjunctivitis 
• Acne
• Inflamed skin conditions

A pack made from grated and crushed cucumber, placed on the face beautifies the skin, if place on the eyes it reduces inflamed, swollen, dry or irritated eyes.

Eating the skin of the cucumber increases its medicinal benefits. 
A tea from the skins alone will help to reduce swelling in the hands and feet from edema.


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When you get it

Cucumbers are at there best from late spring to mid summer, although cucumbers are often available all year around.


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Which to select

Why Organic
To eat organic means to live cleanly, free of pesticides and toxins. It is a conscious choice. One made in order to survive right along with the planet that sustains us. Organically grown foods do not over-run the landfills with toxic waste from their farming or subject your body to unhealthy toxins. For your health and for the planet, choose to eat organic foods. To understand more about why organic is better please read our “Why Organic?” special feature.

The vegetable
Cucumbers should be bright green to dark green in color; they should be firm and rounded at the ends. Avoid cucumbers that are withered at the ends, yellow, puffy or that have soft watery areas.

Try to buy varieties that are organic and without a waxed coating so that you can eat the skin.


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Where to store

Store in the refrigerator and use as soon as possible. If not all used at one time, wrap the leftover in plastic or place in a sealed container so that it does not dry out.


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How to use

Try to always keep the skins when eating, but make sure that the skins are washed and not waxed.

• Cucumbers are eaten raw in salads where they are diced or sliced.
• Cucumber sticks are served with dips and as a garnish in drink or just as a snack.
• Add to soups 
• Grate and add yogurt for a cooling side dish for spicy foods.

A great cucumber soup is a cold Gazpacho soup. Just puree cucumbers; tomatoes, green peppers (capsicum) and onion, then add salt and pepper to taste. Cooling in the summer and great for your skin.


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How much you need

To reach your health goals and become healthy the most important step is to eat a well balanced diet of food from across all the food groups. 

For an average person 
 
Servings per food group. 
Whole Grains (Carbohydrates):  6 – 8 
Meat and beans (Protein):  1 – 2 
High quality fats: 1
Dairy:     2 - 3
Fruit: 2
Vegetables: 5
Water: 6

This list is of recommended daily amount of each food group for an average person 19 to 50 years old with a low level of exercise (30minutes of less a day). If you are older you may need a little less, if you are younger, a little more and if you are very active even more food should be eaten. For more information on serving sizes see our special feature on Sizing Up A Serve.

It is important to ensure that the foods that you eat are of a high quality. The highest quality product is one that is fresh, whole and organic.

Fresh – over time the quality of nutrients degrades with their potency dying off.

Whole – many foods, particularly vegetarian foods carry a lot of their nutrients in their outer skins. So leave bran, germs and skins on the food where possible; always with grains and whenever the fruit of vegetable permits.

Organic – ensure you have the cleanest food by using only foods that are grown without pesticides, or other chemicals, in a natural way as people have in all bar the last 80 years of history. Chemical burdened foods are a modern invention designed to increase output with little regard to the health of the end user.


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Things to watch out for

Be sure to use un-waxed vegetables, those that have not had wax used to seal the skin to make the cucumber for attractive and shiny on the shelves in stores.


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References

The Journal of Nutrition – The American Society for Nutrition, http://jn.nutrition.org, retrieved 05/2009.

Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cucumber, retrieved  05/2009.

Prepared by the editors at Harvard Health Publications in consultation with Meir J. Stampfer, M.D., Dr.P.H., Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Vitamins and Minerals: What you need to know,  Harvard School of Public Health, 2008.

Bratman, Steven, and David Kroll. Natural Health Bible. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1999.

Paul Pitchford. Healing with whole food, North Atlantic Books, 2002.

Goldman L, Ausiello D. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders, 2004.

Norton Greenberger M.D. and Roanne Weisman, 4 Weeks to Healthy Digestion, Harvard School of Public Health. (2008)


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