A Byte of Cucumber History
Cucumbers were thought to originate over 10,000 years ago in southern Asia. Early explorers and travelers introduced this vegetable to India and other parts of Asia. It was very popular in the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome, whose people used it not only as a food but also for its beneficial skin healing properties. The early colonists introduced cucumbers to the United States.
Fresh or Pickled?
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.
Pickle Tip: Do not use iodized salt in making pickles as it causes them to become soft.
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.
Quick Cucumber Facts
- The cucumber is a fruit of Cucumis sativus, a member of the gourd family, eaten as a salad vegetable.
- Cucumbers should be long and slender for best quality. They should be a nice green in color, either dark or light, but not yellow. Purchase only firm cucumbers and refrigerate.
- Cucumbers can be purchased year 'round but are at their best from May through July.
- Avoid large cucumbers, as they may be pithy.
- Old cucumbers look shriveled and spongy.
- More than 70 percent of the cucumbers grown in the United States ultimately end up pickled.
- Do not store cucumbers near fruits, many fruit surfaces may contain ethylene gas to enhance ripening and looks. This will cause the seeds to become hard.
- Cucumber juice is often recommended to improve the complexion and health of the skin.
- Cucumbers have the highest water content of any vegetable and have only 13 calories per 3-1/2 ounce serving.
- Cucumbers are wonderful when served alongside something spicy.
- The cucumber skin is edible.
- Dill or sour pickles contain about three calories per ounce, but sweet pickles have 30 calories per ounce.
- The phrase "cool as a cucumber" has merit. This vegetable's high water content gives it a moist and cooling taste. As such, cucumber is generally regarded as having cooling energy.
- A kiwano is also known as an African horned cucumber.
- To prevent growth of fungus in pickles, burn a small grain of asafetida (Indian spice) over a burning coal. Invert the empty pickle jar for a short time before putting pickles in the jar.
- Cucumbers can grow more than 20 inches long.
References: United States Department of Agriculture; USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
Cucumber Facial Mask
Cleans and Moisturizes
1 tablespoon instant nonfat dry milk
1/2 peeled cucumber
1 teaspoon plain yogurt
Put all ingredients into a blender and mix well until smooth. Apply to your face (avoid your eyes). Leave on for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse off. Mix a fresh batch for each use.
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