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Summertime always brings with it sun filled memories of friends, fun and multiple ways to beat the heat, like moving food prep outdoors. Firing up the grill for lamb and Portbello mushroom kebabs marinated in the sweet kiss of olive oil, balsamic and rosemary or chicken drenched in the lemony tenderness of yogurt, garlic and herbs de Provence.  I love to serve these warm weather staples along with zucchini patties dressed up in wedges of juicy lime and the thick cream of Tzatziki made with Greek yogurt, diced cucumbers, tomatoes and the bright squeeze of a lemon.  The flavors here are all complementary, vibrant and refreshing.

This sunny season is also synonymous with  fresh fruits and veggies, cookouts and chilled libations  —  particular favorites are those that cool you down and lighten you up.  As temperatures shift, you may find a sudden hankering for an icy glass of lemonade (always best drunk from a Mason jar) or the dewy sweet wetness of a wedge of watermelon and just beyond ice cream, lingers the  siren’s call of  the kind of piercingly smooth nuttiness only a frigid dish of pistachio gelato can offer.

While those things are undoubtedly delicious and refreshing there is one summer food that has them all beat — cucumber.   Why cucumber? (You might ask.)

CDC cuke2
Image via Wikipedia

Because this little gem of a fruit is packed with the majority of vitamins your body needs every day (not just during warmer weather.) 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.  Not only that, but cucumbers are so versatile and they can be used in winning summer recipes like watermelon, cucumber and red onion salad; cucumber sandwiches; greek salads; Tzatziki dip and cold cucumber gazpacho with shrimp and melon.

But the miracle of cucumber doesn’t stop with stand-out nutrition or that juicy yet crisp, sweet flavor, it’s also chock full of not so common uses, from treating late afternoon fatigue and migraines to solving household problems like garden pests and foggy bathroom mirrors. Not to mention the spa-like benefits of the combined aroma  (to relax you) and tonic properties of cucumbers (to aid in battle against cellulite and refresh your skin.)

And because cucumbers are high in B vitamins they can give you that extra special boost, propelling you through your afternoon slump, crash-free.  Not only that, but eating a cucumber can leave you with sweet smelling breath, helping to neutralize that icky bacteria in your mouth. They can even help you battle a hangover.

TIP: Before hitting the sheets, after a long day sipping mojitos in the backyard, nosh on a few slices of cucumber. The combination of  sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes helps the body to replenish itself and avoid that nagging headache.

Though I love cucumbers in salads, Bánh mì sandwiches and sliced on bagels with a shmear of cream cheese,  ripe tomatoes and  red onion, my all-time favorite use for cucumber has got to be the simplest — thin slices of cucumber floating in a glass of clear, cool water. There is just nothing more refreshing than cucumber flavored water with maybe a sprig or two of mint.

What’s your favorite recipe for cucumbers?