C is for cucumber

CucumberIt has taken me some time to come around to the idea that foods can be alkaline or acidic because, with my background in biochemistry, I’ve been trained to believe that blood is a natural buffer which can cope with whatever you put into your body and keep it at a pH that is mildly alkaline. Just as the liver can deal with whatever comes its way and there is no need for special detoxing diets.

Guest blog by Susan Aldridge, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

However, in recent years I’ve taken some new nutritional ideas on board and I think, yes, you can maybe overload the natural buffering system (which only has a limited capacity, after all) with acidic foods and, to create a balance, it might be a good idea to include more alkaline foods in your diet. Which brings me to cucumbers….which are well known as an alkaline vegetable, as well as being cheap (I usually buy two for £1 from one of our local stalls), crisp in texture, cooling and very low in calories.

Very Green Juice

This juice is all vegetable (except for the limes), which is better for your blood glucose levels than juices containing a higher proportion of fruit.

One cucumber
Three sticks of celery
Bunch or bag of spinach
Two limes
Big piece of ginger
Peel the ginger (I don’t peel citrus fruit for juice, except oranges). Chop everything into large pieces and juice.

Cucumber-Yoghurt Dip

This recipe draws on three of my favourite side dishes – raita (Indian), tzatziki (Greek) and cacik (Turkish). This is nice with blue corn chips and crudités or you could make more of a meal by adding pitta bread and a couple of other dips, like salsa and guacamole.

Serves 2

Bunch or bag of spinach
One cucumber
400g pot Greek yoghurt
3 cloves of garlic
2 chopped red chillis
Handful of finely chopped mint

Drop the spinach into boiling water for 2-3 minutes, drain and leave to cool. Chop finely. Chop or grate the cucumber. Bash the garlic into a paste with either a granular sea salt or coarsely ground black pepper (or a mixture of both). Now mix all ingredients and chill for at least two hours.

Super Greek Salad

The surprise ingredient here is the water melon. If you have bought one of those big wedges of water melon (terrific value on our local greengrocer stalls), use the rest in your fresh juice or use whole pieces with strawberries for a delicious fruit breakfast.
Serves two

Bag of green leaves (watercress, baby kale, lambs lettuce, rocket…either alone or mixed) as a base
Pot of olives (again, whatever you fancy – black, green, with or without garlic, herbs, chillis, sun-dried tomatoes)
Two avocadoes, chopped
100g small tomatoes, halved
One cucumber, chopped into dice
Watermelon cubes
Two romano peppers, one red, one orange, finely chopped.
Handful finely chopped mint and oregano
Mix all these ingredients (except the herbs) together in a big bowl and dress with my usual ‘special’ salad dressing. Scatter the herbs over the top.

Sue’s salad dressing

Make a dressing by crushing a clove of garlic with mustard powder and/or some grainy salt till it forms a puree. Then add 1 tbsp cider vinegar, juice of half a lemon and 1 tbsp flax seed oil. As you know, I like the oil from The Linseed Farm but, of course, other flax seed oils are available.

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