Let me tell you a little story once again.
A few years ago on a weekend before Christmas we decided to call a few of our good friends over for dinner to share the love and a delicious meal as we always do during the most wonderful time the year.
I started cooking in preparation for the meal two days ahead. Personally, I don’t like standing in the kitchen for too long. I tire easily standing in one spot and I prefer prepping various parts of the meal before the actual day, dividing the workload. I also feel that certain dishes especially meats and pulses pull in more flavour when cooked a day ahead.
My husband who usually helps me with the meals was out at work and couldn’t help me on this occasion. So I asked him if he could make a quick salad when he was back and just before they came over. After cleaning up and taking a quick shower, I noticed he was done. He told me that he had decided to make a simple cucumber salad and mentioned that back home it was always a great accompaniment to rice and dry sides. Eg. A plain pulav and a dry meat/vegetarian dish.
That evening after my friends came over and we were done with dinner. They mentioned that they loved every part of the dinner. Pleased as punch I asked what they loved the best. Pat came the reply, “Cheri everything was great, especially your salad. I loved it. How do you make it ?”
Craig’s simple cucumber salad.
1 green chilly
Salt and pepper to taste
Milk of 1/2 a coconut.
Wash the cucumbers thoroughly. Peel the outer skin only if necessary*.
With the same peeler instead of using your knife at this point, peel the cucumbers lengthwise, such that you have long ribbons of cucumber. Keep this aside in a separate bowl. After a while gently squeeze the ribbons of cucumber separating it from its liquid. Discard the liquid.
Finely slice the onions, and add a little salt and pepper to taste. Keep these aside covered in a separate bowl too. Now chop the green chilly and add it to the onions.
Mix the onions and chilly mix with the squeezed cucumber and add the coconut milk.Season with salt and pepper if needed. Keep the bowl in the fridge the cool. Serve chilled.
‘As Cool as a cucumber ’.
Need a multivitamin? The fourth most cultivated vegetable in the world and available all year round, cucumber is an amazing crunchy-cool fruit. It is held in high esteem in the practice of Ayurveda. It contains more than 90 percent water, actually 96 to be precise, and is rich in minerals. It has numerous antioxidant benefits and contains vitamins B 1,2,3,5 and 6. Vitamin C, iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and magnesium. The peel and the seeds are the most nutrient-dense part of the cucumber.
It cleanses and purifies the gut and our blood. Helps our heart and stomachs, breaks down protein, keeps us looking pretty externally if needed, and aids in flushing out parasites too. As if all this wasn’t enough, it also cools down the body especially when thirsty, and freshens your breath.
If you eat too much of anything though you are always in trouble. Too many cucumbers in some cases could cause flatulence, indigestion, or burping. So go easy.
Did I say fruit?
Yes, cucumber is a fruit and not a vegetable. It is part of the squash, gourd and melon family called Cucurbitaceae. Its cousins are watermelon, honeydew, squash, pumpkin, etc.
Cucumbers come in all shapes, sizes, textures, shades of green, and seedless too. Most are pickled or sliced and used in food. Thin and fat, long and short, smooth-skinned or spiny, light or dark green. Some are even sweet and others slightly bitter. First cultivated in ancient India, in the Himalayas, throughout the northern Bay-Of -Bengal, it’s culinary and medicinal uses travelled onto the Middle East, North Africa, Ancient Rome, and Greece.
The lemon cucumber is one of the most unusual types of cucumber. They are called so more because of their appearance, than their taste. They look like big lemon balls that are crisp, crunchy, and sweet to taste.
The Americans, Europeans, and South-East Asians enjoy a good pickled cucumber as a side or in their wraps and sandwiches. The Japanese, in particular, use it as part of their sushi. Indians in raitas, Kachumber, etc. Greeks and the people of the Middle East in dips, soups, and salads.
A more modern spin on the use of the cucumber would be to use it as noodles in a salad or as a base for a cool summer appetizer, infused in water to make a naturally flavoured drink or as a simple summer sorbet. My favourite cucumber treat is when it shows up with cream cheese, lemon, and dill as a classic tea-time sandwich.
How do you use it?
*Certain varieties have a thicker, bumpy, outer skin and are not easy to eat.
I use organic Persian or Lebanese cucumbers and keep the skin on. Peeling them reduces the fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Most vegetables hold all the nutrients that are required to heal and restore our bodies in the skin and I am fortunate enough to buy great quality, local, organic produce. Unfortunately a lot of the cucumbers found in the market are waxed and will need to be peeled.
Artwork by the author