Cucumber

Cucumbers have a reputation for being cool and calming. Popping up in spas and pitchers of water, these creeping gourds are popular around the world for their versatility and deliciousness. Packed with cooling water and anti-inflammatory elements, cucumbers can be a quick trick for chilling out during warm summer days.

Hot under the collar? Cool off with a cucumber using the following tips.

1. Face Mask: This traditional treatment remains popular for a reason – it increases moisture while reducing puffiness and oiliness. Lay slices of cucumber all over your face, or blend a peeled cucumber and soak the mush on your face for 10 minutes.

2. Water Enhancer: Trick yourself into thinking you’re at the spa and leave yourself a pitcher of ice water with cucumber slices in the fridge. Let sit for a few hours for the flavors to infuse. This will encourage you to drink more water all day, and the feint cucumber aroma and taste will remind you of relaxing spa days of yore.

3. Eye De-Puffer:  Cool off while you remove dark circles and puffiness. Apply two chilled slices of cucumber to your closed eyelids, and let them do their magic for 20 minutes. You’ll be calm and collected when they come off.

4. Cucumber Cilantro Cocktail: In the bottom of a glass, muddle two springs of cilantro with 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar. Fill the glass with ice cubes and add 2 ounces of light rum, 1 teaspoon of fresh lime juice and a splash of club soda. Garnish with a cilantro spring and cucumber wheel.

5. Cucumber Smoothie: Blend together one sliced cucumber (seeds removed) with 3 cups ice cubes, 3 springs of fresh mint and 3 cups of your favorite melon, such as honeydew or cantaloupe. Garnish with a wheel of cucumber and enjoy immediately!

6. Cucumber Sandwiches: These delicate tea party favorites are a healthy snack when done right. Choose whole grain bread and spread with fresh ricotta cheese and slices of cucumber. Cut into triangles and serve with a spot of iced tea for a refreshing twist on a classic.

7. Tzatziki Sauce: This Greek condiment tempers hot foods with the cooling feel of yogurt. Start with one 8-ounce container of plain yogurt, and add 1 diced cucumber (peeled and seeded) along with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill weed and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors meld. Excellent on pita sandwiches, falafels or by itself as a dip for fresh vegetables.

8.  Cucumber Popsicles:  Make two cups of syrup by boiling 2 cups each sugar and water. Cool completely, and then blend with 1 pound cucumber and 4 pounds seedless watermelon, both peeled and cut into chunks. Add the juice of two limes and ½ teaspoon of salt, then pour the mixture into popsicle molds and freeze for several hours until hard.

9. Cucumber Massage: Roll a chilled cucumber under the soles of your bare feet for a refreshing muscle massager. Better yet, have a friend massage your back with this cylindrical tool by rolling it up and down until you chill out.

10. Cold Cucumber Soup:  Puree the following in a blender: 3 seedless cucumbers (peeled and chopped), ¾ cup sliced green onions, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon white pepper, and 1 ½ cups cold vegetable or chicken broth. Stir in ½ cup of sour cream and chill for one hour; garnish with chopped cucumber and green onion.

Image: AhmadHammoud