When the Israelites were grumbling in the desert (Numbers 11:5), they remembered the cucumbers they ate in Egypt. Cucumbers are thought to have originated in India 4,000 years ago. How they became a crop in Israel, I am not sure, but they are certainly part of the daily diet of most Israelis.
In 2014, growers at Moshav Ein Yahav, in the northern Arava between the Dead Sea and Eilat, even started growing cucumbers with technology from Spain. When sliced, they looked like hearts and stars. (Sorry, the stars are five pointed.)
Cucumbers contain magnesium, potassium and vitamin K––nutrients all vital for the proper functioning of the cardiovascular system. Eating food with magnesium and potassium can lower blood pressure and a regular intake of cucumbers has been found to decrease bad cholesterol and blood sugar levels as well.
When I belonged to Haganat haTeva, the Society for the Protection of Nature, and went on weekly hikes, we always ate cucumbers—they are 95% water and a great way to prevent dehydration.
Here are some tasty ways to enjoy them.
Russian Cucumber Appetizer
This comes from a newspaper from many years ago.
- 4 cups sliced cucumbers
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 teaspoons sugar
- 1 cup sliced scallions
- ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
- Salt to taste
1. Place sliced cucumbers in a mixing bowl. Add salt to taste. Let stand 30 minutes.
2. Drain. Add rice vinegar, olive oil, sugar, scallions and dill.
- 4 servings
- 2 large pickling cucumbers
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons tarragon vinegar
1. Score cucumbers lengthwise. Cut into rounds and place in a bowl.
2. Add salt, oil and vinegar and toss.
Homemade tarragon vinegar can be made three ways.
1. 1 cup fresh tarragon leaves with 2 cups white wine vinegar, heated, then poured into a jar, closed and stored 2-3 weeks.
2. 1 cup white wine vinegar with 1 teaspoon leaves, heated, poured into a jar, closed and stored 2-3 weeks.
3. 1 ⅛ teaspoon dry tarragon with ½ cup white wine vinegar, heated then poured into a jar and closed. Store a week or so.
I adapted this from a Food & Wine recipe of Jimmy Bannos Jr., from his Chicago restaurant, the Purple Pig.
- 1 pound feta cheese
- ¼ pound cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1½ pound diced cucumbers
- ½ teaspoon dry oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Place feta in a bowl, cover with water and let stand 30 minutes. Drain.
2. Place feta in food processor and purée. Add cream cheese, heavy cream, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Process until smooth. Refrigerate 1 hour.
3. Toss cucumbers in a bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, oregano, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate one hour or up to two days.
4. Serve lightly chilled or room temperature whipped feta with cucumbers and toasted pita bread or toasted baguette slices.