Cucumbers for better health and beauty

Even in hot weather, the inside of cucumbers remains cool, so it’s no wonder that this salad ingredient has also been put to good use in beauty products.

Beauty expert, Angela Lopez of Belle-Toi in Bournemouth, says cucumbers are rich in fibre and are packed full of antioxidants are loaded with anti-inflammatories and full of vitamins like Vitamin K, C and manganese and beta-carotene, which are useful for ensuring healthy hair and younger-looking skin. The cooling properties along with antioxidants and silica present in cucumbers help rejuvenate the skin.

For these reasons, Angela uses cucumber in her daily beauty regime as it hydrates and tones skin, which is essential in the fight against wrinkles, blackheads, and pimples. She recommends putting thin slices of cold cucumber over your closed eyes to help get rid of crows-feet, which are the expression lines or fine wrinkles that branch out from the corners of your eyes towards your temples.

If you’ve got very dark circles under your eyes due to a too many late nights, add to the mix a teaspoon of the juice of a raw potato and apply it gently so as not to stretch the skin. Puffy, tired eyes often become swollen, itchy and painful and putting a slice of cucumber over your eyelids and lying down in a quiet, dark room will bring quick relief

You can also use these ‘cold cucumber compresses’ on other parts of your body, such as around the mouth, which bear the marks of smoking! For deep wrinkles blend a tablespoon of mashed cucumber with an egg white and lemon juice. Keep the mask on for more than 15 minutes then wash thoroughly.

For glowing skin and to combat dry and sagging skin and the signs of aging, try blending a cucumber or mash with a fork and applying the puree to your washed face, neck and décolleté then after 15-30 minutes wash it off with lukewarm water and then splash cold water onto your clean skin to close pores before patting yourself dry with a soft towel.

Instantly you’ll see a difference as it cleanses out the clogged pores on the skin’s surface and shrinks dilated blood vessels that make your face red. Cucumber makes skin lighter and brighter too and will also pump moisture into your skin to give it a protective barrier, especially against city grime. For a creamier version add yogurt to make an oil-free cleanser to remove makeup at the end of the day – to use the mix as a hydrating mask apply it your entire face and leave it on for 15 minutes.

Instead of using yogurt you could substitute it with raw milk, which helps soothe sun-damaged skin. For relief from sunburn, simply blend a cucumber into a fine paste and add some lemon juice or Aloe Vera gel, which will heal, nourish and even out your skin’s complexion. This will also provide relief from inflammation and rashes and as cucumber acts a natural bleaching, it will also get rid of sun masks or spots, known as melasma that causes dark patches on the skin.

Drinking a glass of cucumber juice directly or simply dilute it in water and use it as a hair rinse to condition and repair dry and chlorine damaged hair and give it a shiny and silky texture. Apply it thoroughly on the scalp and all over your hair then leave it for not more than 10 minutes and wash off with a mild shampoo.

Gargling with fresh cucumber juice will ease a sore throat, can ease hyperacidity of the stomach and also help clear the bowels and increase the flow of urine.

If you’re looking for a fast way to remove cellulite before going out or to the pool, try rubbing a slice or two of cucumber over the problem area for a few minutes. The phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer, reducing the visability of collagen.

Feeling tired in the afternoon? Eat cucumber! They are a good source of B vitamins and carbohydrates and can provide that pick-me-up that can last hours.

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

One final benefit is that cucumber can be used to relieve a headache, so during this hot weather, arm yourself with a cucumber!

Grow Your Own Cucumbers

If eating cucumber gives you gas, stomach pains and other signs of indigestion grow the Burpless variety, which produces crisp, thin-skinned, delicious fruits with no bitterness

You can grow cucumbers in the greenhouse or in the ground outside and in pots or in growing bags.

Indoors, start cucumbers off by sowing seeds in pots on the window ledge from mid-February to April. Sow seeds on their side, 1cm deep in pots and keep the compost evenly moist.

Transfer young plants to 25cm pots of good potting compost in late March in you are growing them on in a heated greenhouse or in late May if you have a cold, unheated greenhouse.

Train the main stem up a vertical wire or cane. Pinch out the growing point when it reaches the roof. Pinch out the tips of side shoots two leaves beyond a female flower, which is recognisable by tiny fruits behind the flower. Pinch out the tips of flowerless side shoots once they reach 60cm long.

Keep the humidity high by watering the floor and, once planted out, feed every 10-14 days with a balanced liquid fertiliser.

If growing them outdoors, choose a variety such as Marketmore, which has a trailing habit and plant out the young plants in early June, ideally under fleece or cloches. Any fertile garden soil in full sun is satisfactory.

Pinch out the growing tip when the plants have developed seven leaves. The developing side shoots can be left to trail over the ground or trained up stout netting. Pinch out the tips of any flowerless side shoots that develop after seven leaves.

Don’t remove the male flowers, and keep the soil constantly moist by watering around the plants – not over them.

Keep your eyes peeled for whitefly, which feeds by sucking the plant’s sap and leave a sticky residue known as honeydew behind that encourage sooty mould to grow.

Watch out for stunted and deformed growth and a yellow mosaic pattern on the leaves as this indicates a virus.

A powdery, white deposit appearing on the leaves is Powdery Mildew, which is worse in hot, dry conditions.

Cut the fruits when they are about 15-20cm long.

Time for tea

The traditional cucumber sandwich is of British origin.

Although cucumbers originated in India over 3,000 years ago, putting them in a sandwich is very much a British invention, eaten to help the Brits in India to cool down. The dainty, crustless sandwiches became part of the quintessential afternoon tea with the upper classes as a pre-dinner snack after they became a hit with Queen Victoria. They may seem simple to make, but cucumber sandwiches can be a soggy, dull disaster! Peeling the cucumber is a good idea as is salting the cucumber for around 20 minutes to draw out the moisture. You can rinse it off and pat the slices dry with kitchen paper towel. Use butter to spread thin slices of good white bread, arrange the cucumber on half the slices, overlapping each round, and sprinkle with ground white pepper. Top with the remaining slices. Pressing down firmly, cut the crusts off, and then cut into neat fingers, triangles or quarters of roughly equal sizes. Serve immediately, with a cup of good Darjeeling tea.

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