With Cucumbers, There’s Seldom a Dill Moment

September 1, 2010 in Diabetic Menu Item, Home and Garden, Mediterranean, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

Even though we generally consider cucumbers as a vegetable, they are really a fruit; because they have the seeds to reproduce themselves inside. Cucumbers seem like such a bland, anemic-looking vegetable. How could they possibly be nutritious? For one thing, that crispness that they add to recipes is a result of water – they are about 90% water. Unlike drinking liquids, when you eat foods with lots of water, they make you feel full and the net result is generally eating fewer calories. That’s essentially the trick of the non-starchy vegetables. Some of the best nutrients in cucumbers, the plant sterols, fiber and antioxidants are in the green skin. If you don’t enjoy eating the peel of cucumbers you may want to just  leave some stripes of peel on, to get the benefits. Like potatoes, lots of the best stuff is just under or in the skin. As for it diabetes benefits, I’ve never done an experiment with cucumbers, but I believe it’s impossible to raise your blood sugar by eating cucumbers (I’m not talking about sweet pickles – just fresh cucumbers).

Cucumbers are another ancient food, having been cultivated for at least 3,000 years in Western Asia. The cucumbers’ cousins include muskmelon, gourds, zucchinis, pumpkins and yellow squash. Wikipedia has posted 12 different varieties of cucumbers; I have never seen the round, yellow, Dosakai of India; but being an adventuresome eater, I would, of course, love to see it, and hold it, and taste it.

Cucumbers are very popular in the traditional Mediterranean cuisines.  I’ve eaten Tzatziki both in Turkey and in Greece, but pronouncing it is a challenge for me. To me it sounds like saw-ZEE-key; but my hearing is no longer perfect, so if you have a Greek friend, ask them to teach you how to say it correctly. The refreshing flavor and texture of Greek yogurt and cucumbers makes a nice dip for toasted pita wedges. It’s one of those traditional recipes with almost endless variations. You can link to this website that offers a list of different recipes for it; but there are hundreds more available on other sites including my Tarragon, Cucumber and Yogurt Sauce for Salmon.

Commonly in the U.S., the small rough cucumbers are used as pickling cucumbers; but you don’t need to relegate them to a pickle jar. They are really quite delicious in salads and you don’t need to peel them if they’re young and tender; the peels are not as bitter as the larger traditional pickles.

Pickles are traditionally a high sodium item, but they are usually used as a condiment, not the main course. If you’ve planted cucumbers in your garden, you can make Easy One-Hour Fresh Pickles in almost no time. They’re a little sweet, but if you use Dr. Grandma’s Delight, your blood sugar will stay under control.