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Cool cucumbers and christophene

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Nasser Khan

“Grow and Eat Local/Food for Thought,” courtesy First Citizens, seeks to inform about some of the approximately 149 crops grown in T&T (not counting the varieties within some of them such as mango).

Cucumber and Christophene are both members of the Cucurbit family which includes Pumpkins, Watermelon, Zucchini, Squash, Gourds, Carillee, Laukhi, Jhingi, etc.

Cucumber, Cucumis sativus, is widely cultivated originating in India where there are many varieties. It is a creeping vine that bears a long, cylindrical, slim crop used as a vegetable and eaten fresh in salads. There are two types of cucumber: slicing and pickling. Within these, several cultivars have been created.

Cucumber consist of 95 per cent water and provide 67 kilojoules (16 kilocalories) and supplies low content of essential nutrients, notable only for vitamin K and are a refreshing, nutritious and versatile addition to any diet, low in calories.. Besides being a popular ingredient in fresh salads and an accompaniment as pickles, cucumbers can be used as to make refreshing drinks, sorbets and sandwiches. Because of its high water content, sliced cucumbers are used to soothe swollen eyes, in facials and to relieve slighty burnt skin.

Christophene, Sechium edule, is roughly pear-shaped, somewhat flattened and with coarse wrinkles, ranging from ten to 20 cm in length. It looks like a green pear, and it has a thin, green skin fused with the green to white flesh, and a single, large, flattened seed. The flesh has a fairly bland to sweet taste, and a texture is crisp and described as a cross between a potato and a cucumber.

Christophene grows best in cool, damp locations. Here in Trinidad, it can be found growing in the cool valleys such as on the way to the Asa Wright Centre in Arima.

Christophene is used in mostly lightly cooked forms to retain the crispy consistency. Raw, grated Christophene may be added to salads or salsas, most often marinated with lemon or lime juice. Whether raw or cooked, it is a good source of vitamin C. Christophene is a popular ingredient in local Chinese cooking especially in stir fry dishes—chunky vegetables, and chow mein. Due to its crisp and lightly sweet flavour, christophene can be used in a wide variety of cooking methods and cuisines - baked, stuffed, cooked in casseroles, soups and curries or blended with cheese.

Christophene, like pumpkin, is very low in calories with just 16 calories per 100 g and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol and a source of dietary fibre, anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins. Being a low-calorie and fibre-rich vegetable dieticians recommend it in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programmes. It is a relatively good source of the B-complex vitamin, folates which are essential for cell division, and DNA synthesis.

This series is sponsored by First Citizens and written in collaboration with Cynthra Persad, retired director of Research, Ministry of Agriculture.


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