Cucumbers

Cucumbers

CucumbersUnlike other vegetables, cucumbers have not received as much attention for their health benefits. However, cucumbers are full of nutrients and provide various health benefits. Whether you want to have cucumber as a snack, add it to your smoothie or as part of a salad, they will always provide a fresh taste. This article will address the history of cucumbers as well as the various health benefits the vegetable provides.

Description

Most people know cucumbers as the long and dark-green vegetable which are commonly added to salad. They also have a smooth skin and they can be found in vegetable sections of almost every supermarket. However, cucumbers can also look different than long and dark-green. The vegetable comes in a wide variety of textures, colors, sizes and shapes. For example, you will be able to find cucumbers which are yellow, white and even orange. Besides the different colors, it is also possible to find cucumbers in different shapes. They can be short, oval or even round. Also, the texture of the skin can differ. You will be able to find  cucumbers which have a smooth and thin skin, but also those which have a thick and rough skin. Although cucumbers are referred to as vegetables almost all over the world, cucumbers are actually fruits. This is due to the fact that fruits are parts of plants which flower and that come from the ovary. Since this is the case with cucumbers, they should actually be called fruits. However, we have gotten used to thinking and referred to cucumbers as vegetables. The plant family to which cucumbers belong to is called Curcubitaceae. This botanical plant family is also the type of family to which squash and melons belong. The cucumbers which we are most familiar with belong to the species group called Cucumis sativus. This is the cucumbers which has a dark-green color and has a long shape.

Types of cucumbers

There are hundreds of different types of cucumbers from the species Cucumis sativus. However, generally they can be divided in two basic types called slicing and pickling. Slicing cumbers are those which include all varieties that are grown for consumption in its fresh form. Some types of cucumber which are considered to be slicing cucumbers are called Slicemaster, Victory, Comet and Dasher. These cucumbers are characterized by being relatively large in size and their thick skin. The thick skin makes them ideal for transport as a whole food since they do not easily get damaged. Also, their size makes them easy to slice. While slicing cucumbers are relatively large in size, it is possible for them to be smaller. This is dependent on the country where they are cultivated. Pickling cucumbers are those which are cultivated not for consumption, at least not in its fresh form. Instead, these cucumbers are processed into pickles. Some  of the types of pickling cucumbers include Dike, Blitz, Regal and Royal. The color of the pickling cucumber can vary. They can either be black-spine or white-spine. Pickling cucumbers can commonly be eaten fresh. Also, since they are small in size and since they have a thick skin, they are commonly preserved. Pickling is a process which is also used for other foods. It is not limited to a specific type of food. Pickled cucumbers will be addressed later on in this article.

History

Cucumber plants grow in both tropical as well as temperate environments. Ideally, they require temperatures between 15 to 33 degrees. Due to its adaptability to various environments, the vegetable is native to many regions in the world. With regards to the origins of the vegetable, it is said that the first cucumbers were first found in Western Asia or  parts of the Middle East. More specifically, research has suggested that might also have originated from India. One of the first times cucumbers are mentioned is in the legend of Gilgamesh. This is a story about a Uruk king who lived more than 2500 years ago. He lived in the area which is now known as Iraq and Kuwait. It was only 3300 years later when cucumbers were spread to parts of Europe. One of the first European places cucumbers reached was France. The vegetable only spread to North America when European colonist colonized different parts of the world around the 1500’s. Since cucumbers are a versatile vegetable and since they can adapt easily to different temperatures, they are available all year round. In the United States, two of the states which are known for producing large numbers of fresh cucumbers are Florida and California. During the winter months, a large number of cucumbers is imported from Mexico. The cucumbers from Mexico can usually be found in stores between December and February. The country which is the largest producer of cucumbers in the world is China. It provides over two-thirds of the global supply of cucumbers. Other countries which are also known for producing cucumbers are Russia, Egypt, Turkey and Spain. The annual production of cucumbers is estimated to be more than 84 billion pounds globally.


Pickles

The term “pickling” actually refers to a method of preventing food from getting spoiled. This method involves soaking a particular type of food in a liquid. There are two main types of pickles. Food can either be fermented or non-fermented. Fermenting is a process which allows for fresh food to soak in a solution for a long period of time. By letting food soak in this solution, the microorganisms in the food slowly change. One of the changes that occurs is an accumulation of lactic acid. This lactic acid helps to protect the food from getting spoiled. When fermented in a correct manner in an appropriate solutions, the shelf life of fresh foods can be extended. The solution in which cucumbers are most commonly fermented in is called brine. Brine is a solution of water which has been highly saturated in salt. The term “pickle” comes from the Dutch word “pekel” which refers to brine. Besides salt, pickling brines often also contain other ingredients. For  example, it is possible to find brine with vinegar, garlic, lime and dill seed. Dill pickles, for example, get their name from the addition of dill seed to the brine. Kosher dills are those which have been fermented in dill as well as in garlic. This should not be confused with the Jewish way of preparing food, namely kosher. Kosher dills in this case refer to the general style in which garlic has been added during the brining process. In case you are looking for pickles which have been prepared in line with kosher dietary laws, make sure that the food you are purchasing is either “certified kosher”. Thus, if mentioned that pickles have been prepared in kosher-style, this does not refer to the kosher dietary laws.  A term which is commonly used to refer to cucumbers and pickles is “gherkin”. This term can be used to describe a variety of cucumbers which belong to the same plant species. Or the term is used to refer to pickled cucumbers.

Health benefits

The health benefits of cucumber are not well-known in many countries. The taste of cucumbers is often described to be rather bland. This is especially the case when you compare it to other types of fruits and vegetables. However, the vegetable is thirst quenching. Also, the vegetable has a cooling effect due to the fact that it is rich in water. It is for this reason that cucumbers make a great snack during summer. Often cucumbers serve as antioxidants when they are consumed together with fried food or with food from the barbecue. Cucumber juice is also becoming more popular. It will not only provide you with high nutritional values, but also has a unique taste. The health benefits of cucumbers range greatly. One of the characteristics of cucumbers is that they have high alkaline levels. This does not only regulate the pH levels in the body’s blood but they also help to neutralize acidity. People who suffer from gastric issues are recommended to consume cucumbers frequently. Also, cucumbers help to regulate blood pressure and they contribute to the structure of tissues in our body. This includes the tissues which are found in our muscles, ligament and tendons. During the summer period, cucumbers help to normalize the temperature of the body. Another health benefit of cucumbers is that they help to counter the effects of uric acid. This can help to prevent inflammation which can be caused by conditions such as gout and asthma. One of the most commonly referred health benefits of cucumber is the fact that it is rich in silica. The silica content found in cucumbers is said to help to create a healthy and bright skin. Extracts of cucumbers are therefore also used to treat various types of skin ailments. For example, if you have a swelling under your eyes or you have been sunburnt, cucumber can help.

Additional health benefits

Cucumber are also a perfect mix of water and fiber. Due to the fiber present in the vegetable, cucumbers can help to protect the body from kidney stones as well as constipation. Cucumbers have an extraordinary amount of water. It is estimated that more than 96 percent of the vegetable is actually made from water. Also, since the water is naturally purified, it is the case that the water content might actually be higher than regular water. Moreover, for many years, cucumbers have been recommended to patients to have been diagnosed with diabetes. This is due to the fact that cucumbers contain a hormone which is required by certain cells in our body during the production of insulin. Various studies have confirmed that cucumbers can help to keep the glucose level balances. It is for this reason that many stored also sell cucumbers supplement which have been recommended for people with diabetes.

How to select and store

As mentioned, most supermarkets sell cucumbers nowadays. If you are not able to find them in the supermarket, they will most likely be sold at a vegetable shop or on a local market. There are a few things to pay attention to when buying cucumbers. Cucumbers are very sensitive to heat. Thus, if you are choosing cucumbers, it is recommended to purchase those which you can find in the refrigerated areas of the supermarket. Also, the vegetable should be firm and the color should be between bright green and dark green. The cucumbers which should be avoided are those which are yellow, are wrinkled at the tips or those which are puffy. Moreover, cucumbers with thin skins usually have fewer seeds compared to those which have a thick skin. When storing cucumbers, make sure you store them in the refrigerator. They can then be stored for a couple of days. It is not recommended to leave them at room temperature since this will cause the vegetable to wilt. For optimal quality, it is recommended to consume cucumbers within one or two days after they have been cut. Otherwise the vegetable might dry out.





                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Article written by: SarahAjaoud
Times read: 1454x
Added: 08-02-2017 10:07
Last modified: 19-04-2017 11:19

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