Wikipedia Article About Cucumber on Wikipedia
The cucumber is the edible fruit of the cucumber plant Cucumis sativus, which belongs to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae, as do melons and squash. The plant has been cultivated for 3000 years and is still a major part of worldwide crops today. Based on statistics about the amount of area harvested for fresh market cucumbers in the U.S., as much as 50,000 acres of land is used for that purpose.
As a plant, the cucumber has large leaves that form a canopy over the fruit. The vine grows on the ground or on trellises, often also in greenhouses.
The fruit is commonly harvested while still green, and eaten as a vegetable, whether raw, cooked, or made into pickled cucumbers. Although less nutritious than most fruit, the fresh cucumber is still a very good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium. It also provides some dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin B6, thiamin, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese. The pickling process removes or degrades much of the nutrient content, especially that of vitamin C.
"Cool as a cucumber" isn't just a catchy phrase. The inner temperature of a cucumber can be up to 20 degrees cooler than the outside air. No wonder these are such a summertime favorite!
Cucumbers were believed to have originated in India and spread through Greece and Italy. They made their way into North America agriculture by the mid-16 century. Cool and moist due to their high water content, they are a refreshing addition to summertime recipies in particular. "Cukes" belong to the same family as pumpkins, zucchini, watermelon and other squashes.
There are several varieties of cucumber; the most popular are English, Persian, and Pickling cucumbers. All these varieties are available year round.
- Armenian cucumbers
- English cucumbers are sometimes known as gourmet cucumbers, "burpless", or seedless cucumbers. This variety has seeds that are very small but do not need to be removed. Longer and thinner than regular cucumbers this variety is usually shrink-wrapped to seal in moisture because they are not waxed.
- Garden cucumbers
- Japanese cucumbers
- Kirby cucumbers
- Lemon cucumbers
- Mediterranean cucumbers
- Persian cucumbers are also known as regular cucumbers with soft, edible seeds. The skin is often waxed to seal in moisture.
It’s important to look for firm cucumbers with rich green color and no soft spots. Cucumbers that bulge in the middle, usually most likely means its filled with large watery seeds and tasteless flesh.
Whole cucumbers should be refrigerated in a crisper for up to a week. Unwaxed cucumbers will easily lose moisture so keep them wrapped tightly in plastic.
Uses & Preparation
- Wash; removing seeds and peeling depends on the variety and is optional. To seed, slice in half lengthwise and scrape out with the tip of a teaspoon.
- Add a decorative touch to your veggie platter. Run tines of a fork down the entire length of the cucumber, penetrating the peel. Slice crosswise.
- Vegetable of the Month: Cucumber by the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, public domain government resource—original source of recipe