Cucumber is the fruit of the cucumber plant, a plant that has quite long stems and leaves that grow around the trunk. The fruit is long (20-30cm in length), the dark green skin is covered in bumps and the flesh is light green with white, watery seeds that have a bitter flavour. The first cultivation of this vegetable dates back to 5,000 years ago when they grew at the foot of the Himalayas. The plant, that comes from the cucurbitaceae family, was probably introduced into the Mediterranean basin by the Egyptians. Cucumber is not just a normal vegetable though as it has been revealed to be a great ally for our general health. It contains a very important substance: tartaric acid. This acid is significant because it prevents the carbohydrates we consume from turning in to fat. This is why dieticians recommend consuming cucumber to those who are trying to loose weight or keep their weight under control. Experts recommend eating it with wholegrain bread to get the most out of its dietary properties. What is more, it contains few calories and is a good diuretic and detoxifier.
Buying and preserving cucumber
Cucumbers are grown all over the world and they can be preserved using vinegar. If you decide to preserve cucumbers however, it is best to buy the small ones and check closely that they are not marked or wrinkled because this means the flesh will be less firm and more watery and tasteless. If you do not particularly like the seeds in cucumbers, remember to choose the smaller ones since they will have less seeds in them. Cucumber should be stored in the fridge in a vegetable drawer for up to 10 days, even if it is recommended to eat it straight away to fully enjoy its qualities. As well as vinegar, cucumber can be preserved with salt.
How to consume cucumber
Cucumber is normally consumed raw, in thin slices, but it can be cooked. Since they are quite difficult to digest, some people suggest cutting them in to slices the day before consumption and sprinkling them with some salt, leaving them to dry out in a shallow bowl. However, others suggest that they are easiest to digest as soon as they have been sliced. The choice is yours!
COMPOSITION AND ENERGY VALUES OF A CUCUMBER
(values per 100 grams of cucumber)
|Edible part 77 %|
|Energy 14 kcal|
|Vitamin C 11mg|
Cucumbers are rich in water and for this reason they can remain quite fresh and purifying. This characteristic is very important for kidney functions: they help the kidneys by removing lipids and toxins and improve liver and pancreas functions. Furthermore, they contain very few calories and are therefore good for weight loss plans. They also contain provitamin A, the complex B vitamins and vitamin C and are rich in potassium, calcium, iodine and magnesium. Cucumber flesh is used as a diuretic and detoxifer and the water and minerals it contains are very good for balancing out acidic foods. In ancient times it was used to eradicate intestinal worms and for lowering body temperature. Cucumber was also used to help treat gout, an illness caused by an excessive accumulation of uric acid in the blood and tissues, consequently making the arteries swollen.
The enzymes contained in cucumber help the body by assimilating protein and by purifying and detoxifying the intestine. These same, active principles also help to prevent the formation of kidney and bladder stones. By eating cucumber regularly, you can also combat constipation as well as carrying out a sort of ‘intestinal cleaning’ and help joint movement. It can also be used as a soother, anti-inflammatory and it reduces itching.
Beauty properties of cucumber
Cucumber is rich in sulphur and therefore it is very good for skin care and it can actually lighten the dark signs of aging thanks to its decongesting properties. Dermatological experts also recommend using cucumber to ease sunburn and if it is used continuously, it can also help to improve wrinkles. The old tradition of putting cucumber slices on swollen eyes is known by everyone: cucumbers can reawaken the eyes, rejuvenating the skin around them and reducing dark bags. In cosmetics, cucumber flesh is used to make a refreshing and hydrating facial mask, the seeds are used for toning and firming masks and the juice is used for soothing wipes for sensitive skin. In conclusion, to reduce wrinkles and make the skin softer and brighter, is it possible to create a very efficient facial mask using crushed cucumber, some olive oil and some drops of lemon juice. This treatment has a cleaning action that cleanses and reduces expanded and/or closed pores and it is also appropriate for sensitive skin that cannot tolerate soap or hard water.
The outcome of this treatment is superior to any lotion and is definitely cheaper.