Two words: zucchini and cucumbers. Don’t groan! I know that this is the time of year when our collective enthusiasm for all things garden-fresh is shifting from waning to dread. It’s okay. Instead of feeling guilty about summer abundance, and instead of finding ways to turn everything into cake (even though I’ve enjoyed a good chocolate zucchini cake as much as the next person) I’m offering two ways to make easy green vegetable foods.
Here’s the quick version of why you should be eating zucchini and cucumbers right now: they’re at their peak and they’re good for you.
Guess what - all vegetables are good for you! Sometimes we mistakenly think that some vegetables are not good for us because we know that some vegetables (like kale, broccoli, and sweet potatoes) are incredibly great for us. But don’t be fooled - it’s variety that counts - not just confining our diets to the super foods.
Here’s the detailed version of why zucchini and cucumbers are good for you. First, cucumbers – with the skin on – are a great source of vitamins C and A as well as the B-vitamin folic acid. They provide fiber for the diet, and help prevent water retention because of the ascorbic and caffeic acids that they contain. But here’s my favorite reason to eat more cukes, though: silica. The mineral silica is very important for maintaining the strength in our connective tissues – muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage and bone – which in turn contributes to a healthy frame, which in turn helps maintain healthy joints.
Zucchini are good for us because, like cucumbers, they provide a lot of fiber for a minimal amount of calories by way of their high water content. More than that, however, in addition to providing vitamin C, antioxident-rich carotenes and potassium, zucchini (as well as all summer squash) contain naturally rich anticancer properties that protect us from cellular damage, especially sun damage. Again - you’ll want to keep the skin on, because that’s where the most valuable part is found.
Eating abundant amounts of both of these water-rich vegetables helps to provide our bodies with...water!, which is especially important during a season in which dehydration can easily occur.
Choose cucumbers and zucchini that have a firm flesh - no squishiness - and clear skin. Store them loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Eat them on salads, grilled in fajitas (yes, you can cook cucumbers just like a zucchini!), sliced into “chips” for dipping your favorite hummus, or blended into a soup. Below are two of my two newest summer recipes using two of my most favorite summer vegetables. Enjoy!
Chilled Cucumber-Avocado Soup
3 cucumbers, ends trimmed
1/8 – 1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed juice from organic lemons (NOT out of a bottle)
zest of one organic lemon
1 tablespoon maple syrup or raw honey
1/2 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh mint (peppermint or spearmint)
2 tablespoons parsley
1 teaspoon sea salt
additional basil or mint to garnish
Add all of the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Add a little bit of water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed, to blend. Taste for salt and serve immediately or chill to serve later. Garnish with shredded basil or mint. Serves 4
Summer Zucchini Bisque
4 zucchini or summer squash, ends trimmed, cut into 1/2” pieces
1 medium new potato or other potato, scrubbed and cut into 1/4” pieces
3-4 summer onions, with the tops, chopped into 1/2” pieces (or use 1 medium red or yellow onion)
5 cloves summer garlic cloves (or use 3-4 regular garlic cloves)
2 tablespoons organic butter
2 cups water
1 vegetable or chicken bouillon cube (optional)
1 teaspoon salt (DO NOT ADD if using bouillon cube)
large handful fresh herbs: mix basil, oregano, chive, parsley)
freshly ground pepper
Heat a medium saucepan or soup pot over medium heat until warm to touch. Add butter and onions and sauté until onions turn translucent. Add garlic and sauté for two minutes longer. Add potatoes and zucchini and sauté until zucchini just begins to brown slightly.
Meanwhile, heat water and add bouillon cube, if using, to soften. After zucchini begins to brown, add water with bouillon (or water wtih salt) to the sautéed vegetables and simmer for 25 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add herbs and pepper and blend with a stick blender or very carefully in batches in a regular blender. Return to pot, taste for salt and pepper, adjust as necessary, and serve immediately. Serves 4-6