Summer is here, and so are cucumbers! They are one of the most healthy and versatile fruits (yup, it's botanically a fruit, not a vegetable) that we can enjoy during the long hot days of the sunny season.
Cucumbers are scientifically known as Cucumis sativus and belong to the same family as melons, and squashes. In general, there are two types: "slicing cucumbers", and "pickling cucumbers". Although both types can be eaten fresh, or used to make Real Pickles (lacto-fermented pickles), or pickled pickles (using vinegar).
Of course, keep in mind that making lacto-fermented cukes, which turn into pickles, are even better as the fermentation process will add probiotics and help digestion. The fermented pickle brine is also great for making other dishes, such as Pickle Brined Turkey.
Since I'm a history buff, here's a few lines on the origin of our cool, green fruit. Then we will go into the health benefits.
Origin & History
Cucumbers are believed to have originated from the foothills of the Himalayas, and have been cultivated in India and throughout Asia for over 3,000 years. They were well known by the Greeks and Romans, and were introduced to the New World by Columbus in 1494.
7 Health Benefits
1. Reduce Risk of cancer: cucumbers contain lignans which may help to reduce risk of breast, uterine, ovarian, and prostate cancers.
2. Keep Stress Away: cucumbers contain B vitamins that help to buffer stress.
3. Good for Heart: cucumbers are a good source of potassium, which helps to lower blood pressure.
4. Digestive Health: cucumbers are rich in water and fiber. Both of which aid in digestion and elimination.
5. Fight Inflammation: Animal studies have shown that cucumbers can calm the inflammation pathway, COX-2.
6. Weight Management: As cucumbers are fiber-rich, snacking on them will make you feel full, yet they are very low in calories. The fiber actually dissolves into a gel-like substance that helps to slow down digestion, so that you feel full, longer.
7. Brain Food: cucumbers contain an anti-inflammatory substance called fisetin which studies have shown to protect nerve cells against aging, and helps with memory.
(Fisetin has been found to protect against the progressive decline of Alzheimer's disease in mice.)
Organic vs. Conventional
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), cucumbers are amongst the Dirty Dozen
group, which means that conventionally grown cukes are contaminated with pesticides and also may contain petroleum-based waxes. So shop organic whenever possible!
Happy Cucumber Summer!
van Wyk, Ben-Erik. Food Plants of the World. Portland: Timber Press, 2006.