Latin Name: Cucumis sativus
What is Cucumber?
A member of the gourd family Cucurbitaceae, the cucumber is related to squash and melons. While we are most familiar with the dark green encased garden cucumber that is commonly sold in stores, there are actually many cucumber varieties that come in round or oval shapes, yellow, green, and bronze colors and have a variety of subtle tastes.
Cucumbers are botanically classified as a fruit, due to their enclosed seeds and development from a flower; for culinary purposes, cucumbers are prepared and eaten as a vegetable. Gherkins are famously used for pickling, while lebanese (short) and telegraph (long) cucumbers make a frequent appearance in salads and salsas.
Cucumbers are thought to have originated in India thousands of years ago. For at least 3,000 years, cucumbers have been cultivated in Western Asia. The cucumber found great popularity in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, where it was eaten and also employed for its beneficial skin healing properties.
What are the health benefits of Cucumbers?
It is no coincidence that one could be “cool as a cucumber.” Cooling in nature, traditional Chinese medicine considers cucumber helpful for quenching thirst, relieving irritability, promoting diuresis, and cucumbers have been used to treat edema, jaundice, diarrhea, and epilepsy.
In other healing traditions, cucumbers have been used for centuries to treat dermatitis, sunburn, and eye swelling. A slice of cucumber can also take the sting out of a recent bug bite. It is cucumber’s content of silica—an essential component of connective tissue, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and caffeic acid–that gives cucumber the ability to soothe skin irritation and reduce swelling. In fact, silica-rich cucumber juice is often recommended to improve skin health, and cucumber’s high water content makes it naturally hydrating—a must for a glowing complexion.
Cucumber’s hard skin is rich in fiber and contains a variety of beneficial minerals including silica, potassium and magnesium. Be aware that cucumber skins are often covered in wax or harmful pesticides, so either research where they have come from or peel them.
Where can I find Cucumbers?
Cucumber can be found in grocery stores and outdoor markets in season; they are at their best from May through July.
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