Cucumbers are a vegetable with many uses in both cooking and skin care. These members of the gourd family are a healthy, flavorful addition to salads and are often served along with spicy Asian dishes to help cool off the diner's palate. Many people make pickled cucumbers as a side dish with a mixture of salt and sugar or preserve them in a brine for later use. The uses of cucumber also extend to skin care, from helping to reduce the swelling of puffy eyes to serving as an ingredient in facial masks. Some people even recommend using cucumbers to help clean bathrooms and shine shoes.
Some of the most important uses of cucumber are in food preparation. They are used in cuisines around the world for their mild flavor and texture. In Thai cuisine, cucumbers are often served with extremely spicy dishes to help soothe a burning mouth and tongue. The lightness of the vegetable provides a strong contrast to more powerful flavors in many cuisines. Cultures around the world also use cucumbers as a healthy, low-calorie snack.
In Western cuisine, fresh cucumbers are often sliced and placed in salads along with a mixture of other vegetables or as a garnish. They also are one of the most commonly pickled vegetables, so much so that the word "pickle" is essentially a synonym for pickled cucumber in many several countries. Pickles provide a salty condiment for use on various types of sandwiches. Fresh, lightly pickled cucumbers are often served as a side dish, either alone or mixed with onions, peppers and tomatoes.
After eating, skin care is one of the main uses of cucumber. As an economical home remedy, people often place sliced cucumbers over their eyes to reduce swelling and improve their appearance. Cucumbers also can be blended in the home along with other ingredients to make a moisturizing facial mask or a skin toner. Many commercial skin care products advertise cucumber as an active ingredient, and the vegetable is often used in day spas.
There are several other household uses of cucumber that have not been verified by the scientific community. Cucumbers have been recommended as an emergency shoe polish, breath freshener and ink eraser. Some advocate the vegetable as a green alternative for chemical products when cleaning sinks and bathrooms. The accuracy of these claims has not been scientifically proven, though many of them do have popular support.