Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The "Amazing" Cucumber!

And here I thought we were the only ones overrun by cucumbers. A friend recently forwarded me an e-mail about “the amazing cucumber” which lists lots of surprising uses and attributes of cucumbers. (I promise this post is G rated!) Apparently there are people out there with too many cucumbers (like me) who have too much time on their hands (unlike me).

I only planted six cucumber plants this year. Three White Wonders and three Long Greens. Last year I planted nine cucumbers and it was much more than we could handle. I was pawning cucumbers off on every unsuspecting soul that ventured near our property, even taking a basket of them to the dentist with me. (The employees loved it!) So I thought six was a more reasonable number.

I have a theory that it doesn’t matter how many cucumbers you plant, they will produce cukes until you say uncle, and then just a little longer. I haven’t mastered a pickle recipe, although I keep trying, so canning them doesn’t make much of a dent in the mass. They make a great base for salsa, but the tomatoes are slow ripening this year. My youngest can eat an entire cucumber (plus half a bottle of ranch dressing) in one sitting. Besides layering them on salads and setting them out for snacks, though, too many cucumbers go to the chickens around here. So the forwarded e-mail was perfectly timed. What else can I do with all these dang-gum cucumbers?!

As I read through the list, I found myself succumbing to my skeptical nature, especially in regards to e-mails forwarded with no credit given to the original author. So I checked Snopes. They acknowledged that the e-mail had been circulating since December 2009 (who would write about cucumbers in December??). The Snopes site stated that the e-mail is “under investigation”. So I googled the title “amazing cucumbers” and found multiple blog references to a New York Times article that apparently reported much of the original claims, but still no author. So I checked out and couldn’t find any article in the past 100 years with this information. Hmmm.

So I decided that I would investigate the claims for myself. Here’s what I discovered (feel free to share this with snopes):

The Amazing Cucumber

1. Cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need every day, just one cucumber contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, and Zinc.

Now that’s quite a laundry list of health! claims that the flesh of cucumbers is a very good source of vitamins A, C, and folic acid. The hard skin is rich in fiber and a variety of minerals including magnesium, silica, molybdenum, and potassium. But what about the Vitamin B? I’m all about getting more Vitamin B – the energizing vitamin. I looked everywhere and could only find one document that gave any evidence of Vitamin B in cucumbers. It said one serving contained 0 mg and 1% of the Daily Value. I’m not sure how 0 mgs equals 1%, but it all looked very official. So on number 1 of the Amazing Cucumber, I’ll be generous and say the e-mail is 50% accurate, but certainly not the nutrient rich wonder claimed.

2. Feeling tired in the afternoon, put down the caffeinated soda and pick up a cucumber. Cucumbers are a good source of B vitamins and carbohydrates that can provide that quick pick-me-up that can last for hours.

OK, here we go again with the B vitamins. I already covered that. As for carbohydrates, states that a serving of cucumber slices contained 2grams total carbohydrates which equals 1% of the Daily Value. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure 2 grams of carbs would pick me up. Dark Chocolate seems to work just fine.

3. Tired of your bathroom mirror fogging up after a shower? Try rubbing a cucumber slice along the mirror, it will eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance.

This morning I turned the shower on and waited for the mirror to steam. When it did I took a cucumber and rubbed it across the surface. Guess what happened? It cleared! But only for a moment and then (just like when my youngest child leaves mirror messages for me while I’m in the shower) it fogged back up. My tea tree oil shampoo overpowered any “spa like fragrance” the cucumber might have been offering, so that was a bust, too. Later in the day, the only evidence that it was a cucumber and not a child’s finger that left the smudges on the mirror is the seeds stuck to the bottom edge. This one really has me laughing. If you rub anything across a mirror, it will clear the fog momentarily. So using that reasoning, you could say that a marigold will clear your mirror or an onion or the cat’s tail – pick your amazing item.

4. Are grubs and slugs ruining your planting beds? Place a few slices in a small pie tin and your garden will be free of pests all season long. The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off a scent undetectable to humans but drive garden pests crazy and make them flee the area.

This sounds too good to be true. While I don’t have grubs or slugs ruining my plant beds (thanks to the chickens), I do have potato beetles and other unidentifiable flying insects that I’d like to get rid of. And since I have cucumbers to spare, this seems harmless enough, so I’m going to give it a try. I’ll have to get back to you on this. I checked Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening on this one, figuring if anyone was promoting this simple, organic method of pest control, they would, and found no mention. Maybe it will make the next update.

5. Looking for a fast and easy way to remove cellulite before going out or to the pool? Try rubbing a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few minutes, the phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite. Works great on wrinkles too!!!

Now, you gotta love this one. But somehow I believe if this was true, I wouldn’t have such trouble giving away my cucumbers. In fact, I’m certain that if cucumbers got rid of cellulite, it would be too expensive for me to even buy their seeds.

6. Want to avoid a hangover or terrible headache? Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and wake up refreshed and headache free. Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins, and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost, keeping everything in equilibrium, avoiding both a hangover and headache!

Enough with the undocumented B vitamins! And as far as sugar, one serving of cucumber contains 1g. Still, I felt I needed to at least attempt to verify this. So last night after watching my hubby have two glasses of red wine with dinner and then a beer during the movie, I left a few cucumber slices out and instructed him to eat some before bed. He smiled and said, “Sure,” but either he was too tipsy to remember the cucumbers, or he was truly only humoring me to begin with, because the slices were still there this morning. Alas, I have no data to share on this one. Cucumbers do have a lot of water in them, though, and consuming plenty of water is always good for a hangover or headache, so I’m sure it can’t hurt. I just wonder how smart it is for drunk people to be using knives or cucumbers before bed.

7. Looking to fight off that afternoon or evening snacking binge? Cucumbers have been used for centuries and often used by European trappers, traders, and explorers for quick meals to thwart off starvation.

OK, this one makes no sense. There is a big difference between binging on Ben and Jerry’s and starving on a trapping expedition in the Alps. But cucumbers are filling (thanks to the high water content) and I do use them to fight off my 8-year-olds just-before-dinner starvation complaints.

8. Have an important meeting or job interview and you realize that you don’t have enough time to polish your shoes? Rub a freshly cut cucumber over the shoe, its chemicals will provide a quick and durable shine that not only looks great but also repels water.

Uh, huh. My hubby wouldn’t let me try this on his good shoes, but I did take a cucumber to a pair of his leather work boots. In the end they were a little darker (and crusted with cucumber seeds), but they didn’t look any better, in fact, they look a bit worse. Don’t try this one at home! Better to have dingy shoes, than cucumber seeds trailing you at the interview.

9. Out of WD 40 and need to fix a squeaky hinge? Take a cucumber slice and rub it along the problematic hinge, and voila, the squeak is gone!

I had to try this on our bedroom door hinge, which squeaks horribly. (Of course, it’s a wonderful warning signal that small people are approaching in the night) Amazingly enough – this one works! At least for 24 hours now. And as far as living the organic life, cucumbers are certainly better for the environment than WD 40. Their shelf life isn’t quite as good though.

10. Stressed out and don’t have time for a massage, facial or visit to the spa? Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water, the chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber will react with the boiling water and be released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma that has been shown to reduce stress in new mothers and college students during final exams.

It’s 100 degrees today, so boiling a pot of water is out of the question. Besides, I haven’t got any new mothers or college students handy, so I have to just take their word for it on this one. There are enough expensive cucumber spa products out there to verify that this is either true or one of the greatest marketing hoaxes of the century.

11. Just finish a business lunch and realize you don’t have gum or mints? Take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds to eliminate bad breath, the phytochemicals will kill the bacteria in your mouth responsible for causing bad breath.

And if you don’t have gum or mints handy, I’m sure you have a cucumber slice in your purse! This is another one too dangerous to try at home. Holding a cucumber slice to the roof of your mouth for 30 seconds may sound simple, but not only is 30 seconds an eternity when you have a cucumber stuck to the roof of your mouth, it’s very hard to breathe and leads to drooling.

12. Looking for a “green’ way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel? Take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface you want to clean, not only will it remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine, but it won’t leave streaks and won’t harm your fingers or fingernails while you clean.

Now, you know me. I’m all about ‘green’ cleaning, so I was all over this one. Sadly, again the only real difference I saw in the stainless steel was the cucumber seeds that clung to the still dingy sides of my old tea pot.

13. Using a pen and made a mistake? Take the outside of the cucumber and slowly use it to erase the pen writing, also works great on crayons and markers that the kids have used to decorate the walls!

I enlisted my daughters help on this one. But after a good 30 seconds of rubbing slowly and then with increasing intensity, I gave up. She did claim, "one of the letters seems a little smudged now." Glad we didn’t try it on a wall.

The e-mail concludes with the advice to “pass this along to everybody you know who is looking for better and safer ways to solve life’s everyday problems.” While it did provide some entertainment for our family, there isn’t a whole lot to take away from this list. But cucumbers are really good for you – especially fresh, locally grown ones.

Cucumbers have high water content (95%), fiber-rich skin, and plenty of potassium and manganese which all help regulate blood pressure, so that’s good. You can apply cucumber topically to reduce swelling and pain in sunburns and dermatitis. And placing cucumber slices on your eyes, not only helps reduce puffiness, but makes you look incredibly silly to your children.

If you don’t have any cucumbers of your own, it’s not too late to plant some in your own garden. There are a few varieties that are only 50 days from seed to maturity. They can even grow vertically in a pot with a strong trellis. You want to pick your cucumbers before they get too bloated and overripe – pick them when they are still bumpy and ridged. Once they become yellow or white streaked they are past their prime. They still taste good, but they lose their firmness and aren’t so good for recipes or pickling.

The cucumber is amazing even if it can’t do all the parlor tricks listed in the e-mail. It’s amazing because it’s easy to grow, good for you, tastes delicious, and is extremely prolific. Stop by – you can try one for yourself. And if you’ve got any great cucumber recipes to share – I’m all ears!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Who knew?

    I'll have to try #4. I've got slugs everywhere!