The cucumber is said to be native to India, although plant explorers have never been able to discover a wild prototype. Cucumbers have been cultivated for thousands of years, and records indicate that they were used as food in ancient Egypt, and were a popular vegetable with the Greeks and Romans. The cucumber is one of the few vegetables mentioned in the Bible.
In 200 B.C. a Chinese ambassador traveled as far as Persia, where he saw cucumbers for the first time. Later, he brought them to China. At a later date, an English sea captain, returning from the West Indies, brought back pickled gherkins to Mrs. Samuel Pepys. Shortly after this period, cucumbers were grown in England.
Occasionally, in a collection of old glass, a plain glass tube or cylinder resembling a lamp chimney with parallel sides will tum up. This may be an English cucumber glass, a device used at one time to make cucumbers grow straight. George Stephenson, inventor of the locomotive, is credited with its invention.
Florida is the principal producer of cucumbers, supplying almost one-third of the total United States commercial crop for market. California, North and South Carolina, New Jersey, and New York are also large producers.
Cucumbers for slicing should be firm, fresh, bright, well shaped, and of good medium or dark green color. The flesh should be firm and the seeds immature. Withered or shriveled cucumbers should be avoided. Their flesh is generally tough or rubbery and somewhat bitter. Over maturity is indicated by a generally overgrown, puffy appearance. The color of over mature cucumbers is generally dull and not infrequently yellowed, the flesh is tough, the seeds hard, and the flesh in the seed cavity almost jelly-like. Cucumbers in this condition should not be used for slicing. Some varieties are of solid green color when mature enough for slicing. but usually a little whitish color will be found at the tip, with a tendency to extend in lines along the seams, where they advance from pale green to white, and finally yellow with age.
Cucumbers are alkaline, non-starchy vegetables. They are a cooling food, especially when used in vegetable juices. Long ago it was believed that people would die from eating the peelings, but this is not true.
Cucumbers are wonderful as a digestive aid, and have a purifying effect on the bowel. It is not necessary to soak them in salt water. Serve them thinly sliced, raw, in sour cream, lemon juice, or yogurt for a delightful summer dish. They have a marvelous effect on the skin, and the old saying ”keeping cool as a cucumber” is literally true because of its cooling effect on the blood.
NUTRIENTS IN ONE POUND (without peel)
Vitamin A: 0 I.U.
Ascorbic Acid: 27mg