Growing on a long, trailing vine, cucumbers come in two main categories: slicing cucumbers, which are generally larger and thick-skinned; and pickling cucumbers, which are smaller and thinner-skinned. Pickling usually involves slicing and soaking in brine (highly salted water) and vinegar to preserve and ferment the fruit.
An alternative is the longer, thinner English or gourmet cucumber, also known as "burpless," with seeds so small they're basically inconsequential.
Seedless cucumber varieties are attained through a natural parthenogenesis process, which allows them to produce without pollenization. While seedless cucumbers are popular in the marketplace, the seeds do contain a number of valuable nutrients that are sometimes absent in the rest of the fruit.
In the kitchen, you have several options for fresh cucumber preparation. They're delicious sliced and eaten with salt. Combined with chopped sweet onions in apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper, they provide a savory, summery side dish.
Grown wild throughout India, cucumbers are used as a traditional medicine to treat headaches. The seeds have found a niche as a diuretic, and the juice is used as an acne cream and a soothing remedy to tired, puffy eyes. These early uses led scientists to investigate cucumber fruit, seeds, and extracts as an effective treatment in other areas of medicine.
Cucumbers are also known to be an excellent source of vitamins, including anti-inflammatory vitamin K, infection-fighting vitamin C, and energy-producing pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). Body-beneficial minerals include bone-building manganese, as well as potassium and magnesium, both good for your heart.
Lignans, unique polyphenols in crucifers and alliums such as cabbage and onions, are known for containing health benefits, such as lowering the risk of heart disease. But recent studies now show that cucumbers also contain powerful lignans that bind with estrogen-related bacteria in the digestive tract, contributing to a reduced risk of several cancers, including breast, uterus, ovarian, and prostate cancers. Other phytonutrients in cucumbers called cucurbitacins - part of a larger group known as triterpenes - are known to strongly inhibit cancer cell development.
Cucumbers are my favorite garden veggie for this time of year. The blistering summer sun, with usually very little rain, provides that challenge that shows the metal of gardeners, and water and mulch are the gardener's and plants best summer friends.
If the cucumber vines need a little help in grabbing the trellis, gently move the vine to sit over a rung in the trellis it will soon latch on. Before long, there will be flowers and fruit. Harvest each cucumber before it gets too fat and starts to yellow. Suyo Long cucumber is one of the best varieties for our hot summers.
For those who've noticed their cucumbers seem to deteriorate soon after refrigerating them, U.C. Davis has reported that cucumbers maintain freshness longer when stored at room temperature.
Cucumbers are also highly sensitive to ethylene, a natural plant hormone responsible for initiating the ripening process in several fruits and vegetables, so another recommendation is to store cucumbers away from bananas, melons, and tomatoes because of the natural ethylene they generate.
How to Protect Your Cucumbers in The Summer Heat…
Cucumber plants, like most vegetables, become stressed at temperatures greater than 95 degrees for an extended period of time. The excessive heat can cause wilting, leaf drop and sunburned leaves. In some cases, the plant can stop growing completely. Some of the best ways to protect cucumber plants from excessive heat are to apply mulch to cool the soil and provide shade from direct sunlight. There are several simple and inexpensive fixes that can reduce the soil temperature by up to 10 degrees.
Your Shading Options…
- Hammer four stakes into place around the cucumber plants. Place a dark-colored shade cloth over the stakes, angling the cloth to allow at least two feet of air flow around the cucumber plants. If the cloth is closer to the plant, use a light-colored cloth to reflect the sun. Move the cloth as needed to protect the plants during the midday and setting sun.
- Place muslin or cheesecloth directly onto the cucumber plant foliage to protect it from humidity and sunlight. You can also place paper bags over the cucumbers to protect them from the sun.
- Place a garden umbrella in a strategic spot to protect the cucumber plants from direct sunlight, moving it as needed when the sun sets. You can also place a laundry basket upside-down over smaller cucumber plants.
- Apply a sheet of compost in a loose, 2- or 3-inch layer around the cucumber plant. Keep the mulch a few inches away from the stem to prevent rotting.
- Apply a 4-inch layer of chopped or shredded dried leaves or straw to the soil around the cucumber plant.
- Apply damp sheets of newspaper to the soil around the cucumber plants. Use four to six sheets, and apply them loosely. Make sure the newspaper isn't soaked with water. Prevent the newspaper from drying out completely with a layer of straw or grass clippings over the top of it.
So, what do you think about the cucumber? For most people, cucumber is a veggie (although technically a fruit) that is placed as an afterthought in salads and cold side dishes. I must admit, even I don’t pass by them in the grocery store and say, “Wow, let’s get one of those amazing cucumbers!”
After learning a few things about cucumbers that I didn’t already know, I now feel guilty about brushing them off. Cucumber is actually an amazing vegetable with an impressive nutritional profile. In fact, it can even be eaten in place of your daily multivitamin.
A little about this humble veggie
Cucumber, or Cucumis sativus, is in the same family as melon and squash. Commercially, cucumbers are divided into two groups, slicing and pickling. Slicing cucumbers generally have thick skin and are larger than the thin-skinned pickling cucumbers.
Cucumber has even escaped the eyes of researchers, being upstaged by the cruciferous crew (broccoli, cabbage, etc.) until it was found that it contains three beneficial lignans (lariciresinol, pinoresinol and secoisolariciresinol), which have been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease as well as several different types of cancer, including ovarian, prostate, breast and uterine.
Here is what my long-overdue research on this unappreciated veggie revealed. I hope you, like me, have a new respect for cucumber when you are done reading.
Cucumber is a nutritional powerhouse
Cucumber is a superfood containing almost all the vitamins you need each day, including B vitamins, vitamin C, fiber, vitamin K1, copper, potassium and manganese. Eat just one cucumber daily in place of a multivitamin.
Rather than reach for that third cup of coffee, chomp on a cucumber instead. The carbs and B vitamins in cucumber provide sustaining energy that can last for hours.
Drank a little too much?
To avoid having your night out turn into a morning nightmare, try eating some cucumber. Eat a cucumber right before bed and your hangover pains will be lessened. Cucumber contains a mix of B vitamins, sugar and electrolytes that keep you hydrated and feeling great after a night out on the town.
Eating too much sugar?
Reduce cravings by snacking on cucumber slices rather than reaching for sugary snacks. I have started keeping a little dish of sliced cucumber by my desk. With a sprinkle of sea salt and a little pepper, this snack keeps me full all day long!
If you are having a crazy day, boil a few slices of cucumber on the stove and breathe in the steam. The aroma of cucumber can promote feelings of calm and relieve anxiety. Want an extra boost? Add a few drops of anxiety-busting lavender essential oil into the mixture.
Does your breath stink?
If you suffer from halitosis, aka bad breath, you may want to consider eating cucumber instead of reaching for sugary breath mints. Phytochemicals in cucumbers kill bacteria that cause bad breath and cavities. Eat a slice after each cup of coffee or meal for breath that stays fresh all day long.
Are you stopped up?
There are any number of reasons why you may experience constipation. Sometimes it is the result of stress, medication or eating a highly processed diet. Cucumbers are high in fiber, which can keep you regular and keep your digestive system working at full speed.
Do you need a detox?
Cucumber not only contains a lot of water, which helps keep the body hydrated, but it also has detoxifying properties. A study from 2013 published in the journal Fitoterapia found that cucumber has “a cleansing action within the body by removing accumulated pockets of old waste materials and chemical toxins.” Want to detox? Eat a cucumber… or three! Better yet, eat cucumber daily to keep toxins from building up.
Do you need an immune boost?
The blend of nutrients in cucumber make it ideal for boosting the immune system and treating common ailments like the common cold and flu viruses. The anti-inflammatory properties of cucumber fight inflammation of the nose and throat when you are suffering from a cold.
Is your blood pressure high?
High levels of potassium in cucumber help regulate blood pressure by boosting electrolyte levels and mitigating the damaging effects of sodium overconsumption.
Do you want to fend off free radicals?
Cucumber, like melon, is high in antioxidants. This prevents the spread of free radical damage that can lead to premature aging and cancer.
Do you have puffy eyes?
Nutrients in cucumber make it effective at relieving inflammation both internally and externally. Place fresh cucumber directly onto swollen areas to reduce puffiness within just a few minutes.
Every once in a while, I just feel bloated. The good news is, now I know that all I have to do for relief is eat a cucumber! The high water content and potassium in cucumber make it a mild diuretic that can fight bloating.
Do you want to build your bones?
Cucumber is high in magnesium, calcium, and vitamin K1 — all essential for bone health. Eat cucumber regularly if you are eating a low-meat or low-dairy diet.
Are you starting to forget things?
Cucumber is naturally high in copper, which is essential for brain function. A study from 2014 published in the journal Aging Cell found that the chemical known as festin, commonly found in cucumber, is effective at fighting the damage of Alzheimer’s disease.
Is your skin looking tired?
Perhaps you’ve seen cucumber used at the spa, and for good reason. Cucumber contains compounds that refresh and rejuvenate the skin from both the inside out and outside in. Create a pulpy mixture of cucumber and a few drops of lemon juice and apply directly to the face for a mask that is both healthy and refreshing.
Do you want strong, shiny hair?
Cucumber contains silicone, sulphur, phosphorous and calcium, all necessary for healthy hair growth. Eating cucumber regularly can reduce hair loss and strengthen hair shafts. The compounds in cucumber also help hair look shiny and healthy. Massage cucumber juice into your hair after bathing and allow it to sit for about five minutes before rinsing away with lukewarm water.
Hey friends, who knew the humble cucumber earned status as such a superfood?