The cucumber, botanically known as the Cucumis sativus, is an extensively cultivated plant in the gourd family Cucurbitaceae that includes squash and also muskmelon. Though it is technically a fruit, cucumbers are widely considered vegetables.
Cucumber is a vegetable which is a member of the family that also includes different squashes, pumpkins, and zucchinis. The skin of this vegetable is dark green, which when peeled exposes a whitish or extremely pale green flesh. Basically, there are two varieties of cucumbers – the slicing type and the pickling type. Among these two varieties, the pickling type is comparatively small in size, approximately 2 inches to 4 inches in length. Most of us are aware of the fact that cucumbers possess a cooling attribute and are very beneficial to provide respite to the eyes during the summer. Nevertheless, cucumbers are related to much different health as well as nourishing advantages also.
In fact, the cucumber is an annual creeping vine that roots in the ground and grows up fencing or other supporting frames, wrapping around ribbing with thin, spiraling tendrils. Cucumber has large heart-shaped leaves that form a canopy over the fruit. The flowers of cucumber are yellow colored and bell-shaped while the fruit is ribbed green. Cucumber has cylindrical, elongated shape, with tapered ends, and it may be as large as 60 cm in length and 10 cm in diameter.
Although plant explorers are yet to find out an uncultivated sample of cucumber, it is known to have its origin in India. Cucumber is one of the oldest vegetables are known to mankind and is reported to have been cultivated for thousands of years. While records available state that the ancient Egyptians used cucumber as a food while it was also a favorite vegetable among the Greeks as well as the Romans. Interestingly, cucumber is among the very few vegetables mentioned even in the Bible.
Here are a few tips on selecting the best quality of cucumbers. The best quality of cucumbers for slicing should be rigid, unsullied, bright, and able-bodied as well as of average or dark green in color. It is always advisable to stay away from shrunken or dried up cucumbers. Normally, the flesh of the cucumber is tough or rubber-like and slightly bitter to taste. Over-matured cucumbers can easily be identified by their messy and inflated exterior. Even the color of the over-matured cucumbers is not green, but dull and very often yellowish. Besides, the flesh of the overgrown cucumbers is very tough and they contain hard seeds. Even the tissues present in the seed cavities are like a jelly. Under no circumstance should cucumbers in these conditions be used for slicing.
There are types of good quality cucumbers that are base green in color when they are full-grown and suitable for slicing. These varieties of cucumbers are usually whitish at the tips and have lines like ribs running from one tip to another. The tips of this variety of cucumbers change from light green to whitish to yellowish when they are over-mature.
How to Use Cucumbers
Interestingly, cucumbers are alkaline and starchless vegetables and among the best cooling food when they are added to vegetable juices. In ancient times, owing to its slightly bitter taste, people were of the opinion that they would die if they consumed the vegetable without peeling it. However, this is not true and over the years, people have realized the fact. Cucumbers are useful in more ways than one. While the vegetable acts as an excellent digestive support, cucumbers also help in purifying the bowel. Many people eat cucumber raw after soaking it in salt water to get rid of its slightly bitter taste. However, this is not necessary and the vegetable can be consumed raw after slicing it finely. These cucumber slices can be eaten raw with sour cream, lemon juice or yogurt for a cool and pleasant summer dish.
The cucumber is also a natural diuretic used in the fitness world by bodybuilders and people trying to reduce fat. Cucumbers have cosmetic use too. They have an excellent effect on the skin and also have a cooling effect on the blood. While cucumbers keep the skin cool and clean during hot summers, they help in maintaining the temperature of the blood in the body. It is due to these qualities of the cucumber that the ancient adage, ‘Keeping cool as a cucumber’ gains ground.
Applying raw cucumber to the skin may possibly aid in lessening inflammation as well as heat. Cucumber is excellent for the health of the skin owing to its cooling, diuretic and purifying attributes.
In addition, drinking freshly prepared cucumber juice has the aptitude to alleviate gastritis, acid stomach, heartburn and also ulcers. When you place a slice of cucumber on your eyes, it helps to cool the eyes and, at the same time, also diminishes the swelling. Consuming cucumber juice on a regular basis facilitates in dealing with conditions, such as arthritis, eczema, and gout.
It has been found that cucumber is useful for people enduring chest, lung and stomach disorders. Cucumber contains potassium and this mineral makes this vegetable effective in treating both low and high blood pressure. Cucumber also encloses an enzyme called erepsin, which makes protein digestion easier.
The juice obtained from cucumber is known to stimulate hair growth, particularly when it is blended with carrot, spinach and lettuce juice. It is said that when cucumber juice is blended with carrot juice it is beneficial for treating rheumatic conditions caused by too much uric acid in the body. Cucumber may also be useful for people who are enduring diseases related to the teeth and gums, particularly in the instance of pyorrhea.
As cucumber contains high levels of valuable minerals, it facilitates in preventing the finger and toe nails from splitting.
It may be mentioned that cucumber has been related to healing diseases related to the kidneys, liver, urinary bladder and pancreas. Consumption of cucumber, as well as cucumber juice, has also proved to be beneficial for people who are enduring diabetes.
Cucumber has very high water content and this offers several health benefits that are physical, for instance, lessening the swelling under the eyes, clear or blemish-free skin as well as respite from sunburn. However, the water contained by cucumbers also facilitates in detoxifying the body, thereby, safeguarding you from falling sick.
While cucumbers do not burn fats by themselves, when you include cucumber in a salad, it may aid in boosting the daily fiber ingestion to burn fat and, thereby, help in weight loss. Owing to the high water content, cucumbers also provide you with the requisite fluid for processing fiber. Apart from the flesh, even the cucumber peel is a wonderful resource of dietary fiber, which is effective in providing relief from constipation as well as protecting against developing specific types of colon cancer.
It is worth mentioning that every cup (250 ml) of cucumber contains about 16 micrograms of magnesium and approximately 181 mg of potassium, which is able to assist in regulating as well as lessening high blood pressure (hypertension). When blended with properly balanced diet, consumption of cucumbers may prove to be helpful in regulating the blood pressure.
It is advisable that every time it is feasible, purchase organic cucumbers since cucumbers may possibly be waxed or be coated with pesticides. In case you purchase non-organic cucumbers, in any case, rinse them under cold running water and also cleanse them tenderly using a vegetable brush.
In addition, you may also soak cucumbers in water for about 5 to 10 minutes with about one to two tablespoonful of apple cider vinegar to get them rid of any pollutant or pesticides.
History and Habitat of Cucumbers
Cucumbers are known to be native to India and there is enough evidence available that shows that cucumber has been cultivated in Western Asia for about 3,000 years. Cucumber is also listed among the useful foods of ancient Ur. Some sources also mention that cucumber was cultivated in ancient Thrace. From India, cucumber spread to Greece where it was called “views” and Italy, where the Roman people were especially fond of this vegetable. Later, the cucumber was introduced in China. Today, cucumber is widely cultivated across the globe.
Homemade Cucumber Lotion
The ingredients required to prepare the elderflower and cucumber lotion to include:
- 1 teaspoonful (5 ml) of cucumber juice
- 1 teaspoonful (5 ml) of almond oil
- 2 tablespoonfuls (30 ml) of almond milk
- 1 drop of the tincture of benzoin
Just blend all these ingredients in a jar and seal the lid tightly. Shake the mixture thoroughly before use every time.