Top 10 Unusual Cucumber Facts and a Killer Relish Recipe

Top 10 Unusual Cucumber Facts and a Killer Relish Recipe

Spring is the promise of good things to come.....

Don’t get me wrong. I like winter. I like stodgy food, a real coal fire burning in the hearth and taking a hot water bottle to bed at night.  But an English spring is soft and warm, just like a freshly-baked dough ball.  It arrives overnight like an Amazon parcel and makes you forget bad news for a while. It begins on that morning when you don’t want to wear a coat; when you smile for no particular reason and actually enjoy walking the dog again.

Some people insist that spring begins on the first day of March while others maintain that it occurs on the vernal equinox of March 20th or 21st.  But for me, spring begins quite simply when it feels like spring.  Its’ arrival does not depress me or make me wonder where another year has gone.  This is the season when the world is refreshed and renewed.  And so, I can only feel a sense of optimism for what lies ahead.  Baggy jumpers will finally go back in the wardrobe, the big house clean can begin and Cadbury’s Creme eggs will entice me at every turn.

Spring can offer many other temptations, depending on what floats your boat.  There is the abundance of fresh lamb, rhubarb, spring greens, asparagus, purple-sprouting broccoli, leeks, savoy cabbage, cauliflower and kale.  But let’s not forget the one thing that most of us prefer to bypass unless we are dieting.....and that is the good old-fashioned cucumber.

The cucumber is a member of the gourd family which includes melons, squashes, courgette and pumpkin. Commercial production of cucumbers is usually divided into two types. "Slicing cucumbers" are produced for fresh consumption. "Pickling cucumbers" are produced for eventual processing into pickles. Slicing cucumbers are usually larger and have thicker skins, while pickling cucumbers are usually smaller and have thinner skins.

It is a remarkable plant with many uses and is thought to have originated in India about 3000 years ago.  Over the centuries, it has provided us with many benefits.

For example:

  • The term “cool as a cucumber” is actually derived from the cucumber’s ability to cool the temperature of the blood.
  • Slices of cucumber can ease facial swelling and are known to remove cellulite and wrinkles.
  • Cucumbers contain insoluble and soluble fibre that helps you feel full and also lowers bad cholesterol in your body. They are low in calories and saturated fats. Because of their diuretic property, cucumbers help in checking weight gain and high blood pressure and can be a great pick-me-up to eat in the afternoon.
  • If you are feeling stressed, cut up an entire cucumber and put it in some boiling water.  Put a towel over your head and slowly inhale.  You should feel relaxed after just a few minutes.
  • Cucumbers are full of Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.  These help to put your electrolytes in balance and will take away your headache brought on by day-to-day stress or the occasional “one too many.”  Eat a few slices of cucumber before going to bed.  In the morning you should be headache-free.
  • Cucumbers can eliminate bad breath. Take a slice and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds. The phytochemicals will kill the bacteria that are responsible for causing bad breath.
  • Rubbing a cucumber slice on your bathroom mirror will help you get rid of the fog and liven up the place with a spa-like
  • If you rub a fresh cucumber over your shoes, they will get a quick shine that will also repel water.
  • If you are out of WD-40, slice up a cucumber and rub it on that creaky hinge. Cucumbers also get rid of soap scum and tarnish from stainless steel sinks without leaving streaks. 
  • Another household use is to rub a whole cucumber against crayon marks - just in case your little one uses your walls instead of a colouring book.

 So, there you have it.  Hopefully, you will never look a cucumber in the face again and think it is boring!  Just to convince you even more, have a go at this delicious American-style relish for those moments when you want to give ketchup or mustard a break and be more adventurous!

Classic Sweet Hot Dog Relish Recipe

INGREDIENTS

5 medium sized cucumbers, seeded and finely chopped
    2 medium white onions, finely chopped
      1 large red bell pepper, finely chopped
        2 tablespoons kosher or other non-iodized salt
          125ml apple cider
            1 1/2 teaspoons cornflour
              170g caster sugar
                1/2 teaspoon celery seed
                  1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
                    1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder
                      1/4 teaspoon turmeric
                        1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
                          Dash of freshly ground black pepper
                            Makes 3 – 4 half pint jars

                            PREPARATION

                            Slice the cucumbers lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a small spoon.  Chop finely, or pulse a few times in a food processor.

                            Transfer the finely chopped cucumber to a large, non-reactive bowl (no aluminum).

                            Finely chop the onion and bell pepper, or pulse a few times in a food processor. Add the onion and bell pepper to the cucumber in the bowl.

                            Add 2 tablespoons of kosher or other non-iodized salt to the vegetables and mix well. The salt will draw water out of the vegetables, a step that results in better texture and flavour in the finished relish.

                            Cover the bowl of vegetables and leave it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

                            Transfer the vegetables to a sieve or strainer and let them drain for a couple of minutes. Rinse them well with cool water and let drain again. Get out even more of the liquid by squeezing with your clean hands or by pressing the vegetables against the sieve with the back of a wooden spoon.

                            Whisk the cornstarch into room temperature vinegar. Stir in the spices and sugar.

                            Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often to help dissolve the sugar and prevent lumps.

                            When the syrup is boiling and becoming translucent, add the vegetables. Simmer the relish for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

                            Scoop the relish into sterilised jars, leaving 1/2-inch of headspace and cover with sterilised lids immediately.

                            Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Once the jars are processed and sealed, this relish will keep at room temperature for up to 1 year. It is still safe to eat after that, but the quality will decline. Once opened, store the jars in the refrigerator.

                            Alternatively, skip the water bath and instead put the jars into the refrigerator. The relish will keep in the fridge for up to 3 months.

                            The flavour will be even better if you can wait a week before eating the relish, if you can resist.


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