Cucumbers make for a grand summer treat -- refreshing on a hot day thanks to their high water content. Related botanically to melons, cucumbers provide a smidge of vitamin C, too. Plus they're satisfyingly crunchy. The skins on cucumbers can sometimes be bitter, though, so to maximize their kid appeal, peel your cukes before you serve them. Or, if your little one is ready to handle a peeler with supervision, let him handle the task. Kids love eating food they've had a hand in preparing.
Dips for Cucumbers
Many kids prefer their veggies as plain and unadorned as possible. Many also love to dip one food into another. The simplest way to get your child to eat cucumbers, therefore, might be to slice them into spears or discs and provide a healthy dip on the side. You can try hummus, cottage cheese, white bean dip or even peanut or cashew butter. If all else fails, offer a little ranch dressing.
Cucumber in the Dip
As an alternative, the dip could include the cucumber and the dippers could be pita chips, crackers or other vegetables such as carrot sticks or red pepper strips. Grate some cucumber into Greek-style yogurt, add a pinch of salt and you've made a kid-friendly version of the traditional Greek dip tzatziki. You can add a little mint, too, if you like, and a crushed garlic clove if your child doesn't mind the taste.
Cucumber salads come in all sorts of variations. Some have a vinegary dressing while others have a dairy-based dressing. An Israeli salad consists of diced cucumbers and tomatoes dressed with tahini -- uncooked sesame paste -- and lemon juice. The tomato juice turns the dressing pink, which in itself might make it appealing to your child. If your child likes the tangy taste of vinegar, try a Japanese-style salad with paper-thin slices of cucumber, rice vinegar and a sprinkling of sesame seeds and/or a touch of sesame oil. If she prefers dairy, try tossing cubes of cucumber with some crumbled feta and perhaps a few halved cherry tomatoes. Add basil or parsley and a little olive oil for a dressing.
Instead of making cucumbers the star of the show in a salad, turn them into supporting players. Kids adore noodles, so concoct a cold noodle salad with grated cucumber plus shredded carrot or slivers of bell pepper. Dress with your favorite peanut sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds or crushed peanuts. Add some cold leftover cooked chicken for a protein boost or, if your child is a fan of tofu, add silken tofu cubes.
Cucumber Soups and Smoothies
Cucumber makes for a tasty addition to a smoothie made with strawberries, pineapple or melon. Substitute a handful of chopped cucumber for some of the fruit in your favorite recipe and blend away. The sweet taste should help convince your child to try it, too. When the summer sun hits its peak, use the same blender to concoct a cold cucumber soup. All it takes is a little buttermilk or yogurt, chopped cucumbers and some fresh herbs such as mint, parsley or chives. Or omit the dairy and puree with just some water, lemon juice and water. Try adding an avocado, too -- most kids love avocado, after all.
The phrase "cucumber sandwiches" likely conjures up images of dainty fingers of crustless bread served at tea parties -- and as it happens, lots of children love tea parties (and sandwiches without crusts). So by all means, feel free to try this ladies' luncheon staple on your young ones. Use thinly sliced whole-grain bread as the base. Spread with cream cheese and top with thin slices of cucumber. Cut off the crusts into long slim "fingers" and serve alongside a pot of mint tea.
You might not have guessed that you could cook cucumbers, but it's true. Cooking cukes is not uncommon in Asian cuisines, but poke through an old English cookbook and you might find an old-fashioned recipe or two. Sauteed cucumbers turn soft and silky and readily absorb the flavors of whatever else you cook them with. Toss with a little soy sauce and sesame oil.
Lori A. Selke has been a professional writer and editor for more than 15 years, touching on topics ranging from LGBT issues to sexuality and sexual health, parenting, alternative health, travel, and food and cooking. Her work has appeared in Curve Magazine, Girlfriends, Libido, The Children's Advocate, Decider.com, The SF Weekly, EthicalFoods.com and GoMag.com.