- June 30th, 2012
- in Yachting
Cool as a Caribbean Cucumber
Month-to-month temperature changes in the Virgin Islands are subtle, but by July the air and water have become noticeably warmer than in the winter months. As the mercury rises in the summer, I crave cool and refreshing foods. Cucumbers fit the bill perfectly.
Cucumbers are an underrated food. You’re unlikely to see the humble cucumber featured in fine restaurants or on sleek TV cooking programs. If you’re like me, you may toss a cucumber into your grocery cart as if on autopilot. Cucumbers are regularly in my refrigerator, but I have rarely used them in ways other than slicing and tossing on a lettuce salad. Yet cucumbers are surprisingly versatile—how often is the same food used in a salad, as a cocktail garnish (for the classic British Pimms Cup) and even as a beauty product that hydrates skin and reduces puffiness around the eyes? This summer, I’ve made a point to discover new ways to use cucumbers, promoting them to center stage in my chopped salads, sandwiches and even beverages.
This vegetable is particularly ideal to eat on a boat. Preparation of a cucumber will not add any unnecessary heat to your galley, since cucumbers are seldom cooked. They are also quick and easy to prepare, requiring little more than a knife and cutting board. Additionally, cucumbers allow you to experience locally grown food, as they are one of the most readily available local vegetables in the Virgin Islands. I’ve purchased local cucumbers directly from the source at Tortola’s Good Moon Farm and at roadside produce stands, and have also purchased them at local supermarkets. While local cukes may not look as attractive as imported produce, the freshness will more than make up for their appearance.
Select small cucumbers that have a vibrant green colour and are firm. Avoid shriveled cucumbers or those with soft spots. Cucumbers can be eaten whole, although peeling a cucumber can eliminate the bitterness that sometimes occurs (usually with imported veggies past their prime), and removing its seeds can make for better presentation in salads. To seed a cucumber, simply cut lengthwise, then scoop out the seeds with a small spoon. Common cucumber varieties are slicing, pickling and English hothouse. The latter is typically sold wrapped in plastic to protect its relatively thin skin. Cucumbers are popular worldwide, with common uses such as cold soups, salads, crudité platters, sandwiches and pickles. They also make a refreshing addition to a glass of water, in lieu of adding a lemon.
With a water content exceeding 95%, cucumbers are a good source of hydration and a healthy choice for mindless munching when you’re craving something crunchy. Despite their low calorie count and high water content, cucumbers contain good-for-you vitamins, minerals and fiber. Try my cucumber and feta salad for a cool and flavourful addition to your next mid-summer meal.
Cucumber and Feta Salad
Use local cucumbers, if available. You will need about one pound.
1 English hothouse cucumber, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, diced in ½” pieces
½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved
²⁄³ c crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl red wine vinegar
2 Tbl chopped fresh dill, or ¾ tsp dried dill
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve immediately. Makes four servings.