Cucumbers

Cucumbers are scientifically known as Cucumis sativus and belong to the same family as watermelon, zucchini, pumpkin, and other types of squash. Varieties of cucumber are grown either to be eaten fresh or to be pickled. Those that are to be eaten fresh are commonly called slicing cucumbers. Cucumbers such as gherkins that are specially cultivated to make pickles are oftentimes much smaller than slicing cucumbers.

Having an enclosed seed and developing from a flower, cucumbers are scientifically classified as fruits. Much like tomatoes and squash, however, their sour-bitter flavor contributes to cucumbers being perceived, prepared and eaten as vegetables. Still, "vegetable" is a purely culinary term, and there is no conflict in classifying cucumber as both a fruit and a vegetable.

The flesh of cucumbers is primarily composed of water but also contains ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and caffeic acid, both of which help soothe skin irritations and reduce swelling. Cucumbers hard skin is rich in fiber and contains a variety of beneficial minerals including silica, potassium and magnesium.

The cucumber originated in India. Large genetic variety of cucumber has been observed in different parts of India. The cucumber has been cultivated for at least 3,000 years in Western Asia, and was probably introduced to other parts of Europe by the Romans. Records of cucumber cultivation appear in France in the 9th century, England in the 14th century, and in North America by the mid-16th century.

Abbondanza also grows Asian Cucumbers. Longer and thinner than the common cucumber, Asian Cucumbers are very narrow and long, growing up to 18 inches long but remaining less than 2 inches in diameter. The seed cavity is very small and the flesh is thick, crisp and delicious.

Storing and Cooking

Cucumbers should be stored in the refrigerator where they will keep for several days. If you do not use the entire cucumber during one meal, wrap the remainder tightly in plastic or place it in a sealed container so that it does not become dried out. For maximum quality, cucumber should be used within one or two days. Cucumbers should not be left out at room temperature for too long as this will cause them to wilt and become limp.

Unwaxed cucumbers do not need to be peeled but should be washed before cutting. Cucumbers can be sliced, diced or cut into sticks. While the seeds are edible and nutritious, some people prefer not to eat them. To easily remove them, cut the cucumber lengthwise and use the tip of a spoon to gently scoop them out.

Conventionally grown cucumbers, like other fragile vegetables, may be waxed to protect them from bruising during shipping. Plant, insect, animal or petroleum-based waxes may be used. Carnauba palm is the most common plant-source wax. Other compounds, such as ethyl alcohol or ethanol, are added to the waxes for consistency, milk casein (a protein linked to milk allergy) for "film formers" and soaps for flowing agents. Since you may not be able to determine the source of these waxes, this is another good reason to choose organically grown cucumbers.

Cucumber serving ideas:

  • Use half-inch thick cucumber slices as petite serving "dishes" for chopped vegetable salads.
  • Mix diced cucumbers with sugar snap peas and mint leaves and toss with rice wine vinaigrette.
  • For refreshing cold gazpacho soup that takes five minutes or less to make, simply purée cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers and onions, then add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add diced cucumber to tuna fish or chicken salad recipes.


Cucumber Recipes:

Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Cucumber Lemonade (Aqua de Pepino)

Danya's Cool as a Cucumber Soup

Did you know?

The Center for Disease Control estimates that every year 76 million Americans get sick, more than 300,000 are hospitalized, and 5,000 die from food borne illnesses

Quotes

"In the present State of America our welfare and prosperity depend upon the cultivation of our lands and turning the produce of them to the best advantage."
~George Washington

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