Food Matters is an ongoing blog category that will present and discuss information and ideas around many topics that pertain to food and nutrition, including the ecological and ethical dimensions of our food choices. I will also periodically post yummy, easy and healthy recipes for you to try.
Did you know that the expression “cool as a cucumber” is based in fact?
According to vegetarian cookbook author Nava Atlas, the inside of a cucumber stays about 20 degrees cooler than the air temperature! Though now appreciated, this cooling quality was once viewed with fear and superstition.
The 17th century herbalist Nicholas Culpepper stated:
“The cucumber is under the dominion of the moon, though they are so much rejected for their coldness, it is by some affirmed that if they were but one degree colder, they would be poison.”
Culpepper himself promoted and recognized the positive attributes of the cucumber despite the superstitious views of naysayers. He recommended the consumption of cucumbers for “hot stomach or liver” among other medicinal virtues he ascribed to cucumbers.
My absolute favorite variety of cucumber is the Armenian cucumber, Cucumis melo variety flexuosus. It is not a cucumber you will ever find in a store, as it is not a vegetable of standard commerce. It is an heirloom variety that you must either grow yourself, or find in a farmers market.
It tends to be a bit finicky to grow, but so worth the effort. It can grow to be quite large, with ample flesh and small seeds. It is never bitter and has a very slight sweetness to it reminiscent of melon (this is because, botanically speaking, it is not a cucumber but rather a variety of muskmelon that is closely related to cucumbers! Both cucumbers and melons are in the same botanical family). Additionally, the skin is a beautiful pale, pale green with ridges, that when sliced cross-wise create lovely flower shapes. It is delicious and beautiful!
In these hot days of summer, the cooling properties of cucumber are a perfect reason to enjoy the abundance and variety of cucumbers that are now in our gardens and farmers markets. Here is a recipe to help you enjoy the seasonal bounty of cucumbers, and other seasonal produce that is available to us now – enjoy!
MEDITERRANEAN CHOPPED SALAD
- 1 — 2 cucumbers peeled (or not), seeded and chopped
- 1 large tomato, chopped/diced, or several small to medium tomatoes
- 1 red, yellow or green bell pepper, chopped or a mix of colors
- 1 scallion finely minced or chopped fresh chives
- 2 TBS or more of fresh parsley chopped (or more to taste) or any other favorite fresh herbs including fresh basil, oregano, or thyme…
- Juice of ½ a lemon or more to taste (kinda depends on your taste and the juiciness of the lemon)
- 1 small garlic clove finely minced
- 8–10 Kalamata olives, or other olives of your choice, pitted and chopped
- Salt & Black Pepper to taste
- Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
Combine all of the chopped veggies, herbs and olives in a bowl. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper, and olive oil.
Optional yet yummy ingredients:
- Garbanzo beans (makes a high protein vegan main-dish salad)
- Your favorite feta cheese – delicious, authentic and very complimentary to this salad.
- If not vegetarian, this salad is delicious served with grilled shrimp or fish, making a very light, flavorful summer meal.
NOTE: Okay. I whole-heartedly admit that I am not a “by the measure” sort of cook. I feel as I go, depending on what is at hand and the qualities of the ingredients. So please take my recipe amounts “with a grain of salt”. All of the ingredients and optional ingredients can be adjusted according to what you have on hand, or what your preferences are. Creative substitutions or additions are always welcome. Cooking and meal preparation is often an organic process in the moment. I call it “jazz cooking”. So explore and make the very best of summer’s produce!