7 Cool Ways to Use Cucumbers

While it might not be the most glamorous summer vegetable, cucumbers always have a spot in my crisper drawer. They’re refreshing, abundant and inexpensive this time of year. And if you have a garden, you may know that they they’re prolific and fairly easy to grow.

Here are a few easy cuke ideas to keep you cool:

1. Rejuvenate your skin: Make a skin toner by extracting juice from 1 cucumber with a juicer or by processing chopped cucumber and then squeezing out the juice from the pulp. Combine with witch hazel for a cooling pore-tightener. (from Holistic Beauty From the Inside Out by Julie Gabriel)

2. Add ’em to smoothies: If the skin is thick, peel, then deseed and then drop cuke cubes into any smoothie. It will thicken the smoothie and add potassium and vitamin C. Here’s a recipe to try from Joy the Baker.

3. Roll it up: For a quick, easy app, slice cucumber into thin slices lengthwise, roll slices around a cubes of feta cheese and spear with toothpicks to keep them in place. (Here’s a fancier version.)

4. Dress up drinks: Add cucumber slices to a pitcher of water, vodka or sake; refrigerate and strain before serving. (From Grow Cook Eat by Willi Galloway)

5. Make a refreshing aqua fresca: Puree three large (8-inch) cucumbers with 1 quart of water and the juice and zest of two limes. Strain through a double layer of cheesecloth. Add simple syrup to taste and a bit of fizzy water if you like. (From Grow Cook Eat)

6. Pickles, quick: Slice thinly, sprinkle with salt and pepper and immerse in apple cider vinegar; chill overnight. (From Grow Cook Eat)

7. Make a Mexican snack: “In Mexico vendors troll the beaches selling plastic beer cups filled with fruit drenched in fresh lime juice and sprinkled with salt and hot chile powder,” writes Willi Galloway in Grow Cook Eat. “Melons, mangos, papayas, and cucumbers are all served this way.” Here’s the recipe:

Cucumber Wedges with Chile and Lime
Serves 4

Two 8- to 10-inch-long Asian cucumbers, chilled
1 lime
Sea salt
2 teaspoons spicy, flavorful chile powder, such as Chimayo*

Wash the cucumbers and slice off the ends. Halve each crosswise and then slice each half lengthwise, so you have 4 pieces. Then halve each quarter lengthwise to make wedges. Place cucumbers in a large bowl. Halve the lime and discard any seeds. Squeeze lime juice over the cucumber wedges and toss gently to coat. Dust with salt and chile powder. Serve immediately.

* Galloway says: “I use the bright orange-red Chimayo chile powder when I make this recipe. This spice comes from Chimayo, New Mexico, and it has an amazing spicy-sweet flavor. I buy it from a farmer at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market who sells it out of his stall from plastic garbage cans, but it is also available online and is worth ordering.”

Recipe (c)2012 By Willi Galloway. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening, Including 50 Recipes, Plus Harvesting and Storage Tips by permission of Sasquatch Books.

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