The cucumber is an example of the refreshing vegetable. Besides, it is so often eaten raw that you almost forget that it can be eaten cooked, cooking it a bit like zucchini.
- Rich in water;
- Low in calories;
- Source of fiber;
- Ally for weight loss;
- Stimulates intestinal transit.
What is cucumber?
Food identity card
- Type: Vegetable;
- Family: Cucurbits;
- Origin: Himalaya;
- Season: April to October;
- Green color.
Characteristics of cucumber
The cucumber is a creeping plant. When harvested, the cucumber is the fruit of a flower. It is long and cylindrical, green in color. The plant has large green leaves.
Differences with nearby foods
Cucumber and pickle are close foods.
The pickle generally designates a cucumber picked before its full growth and which is used as a condiment after having marinated it in vinegar. However, there is a “real” pickle: it is a specific variety of cucumber, the gherkin, whose natural size reaches only a few centimeters.
Word from the nutritionist
To make the most of the benefits of cucumber, you can eat it raw with its skin on. A portion of cucumber represents approximately 180g of cucumber.
For 100g of cucumber:
|Vitamin C||8.25 mg|
|Beta carotene||45 µg|
4 benefits of cucumber: why eat it?
- Antioxidants are compounds that protect the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals. These are very reactive molecules which are implicated in the development of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other diseases linked to aging. Studies have shown the presence of phenolic compounds with slight antioxidant activity in cucumbers.
- More than 95% of the weight of raw cucumber consists of water. This feature makes it a refreshing vegetable while having a very low caloric value, which can be an asset for people who monitor their weight.
- Raw cucumber (without peel) is a source of copper. As a constituent of several enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (protein used for the structure and repair of tissues) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also help the body’s defense against free radicals.
- Raw cucumber (with peel) is a source of vitamin K. This vitamin is necessary for the synthesis (manufacture) of proteins associated with blood clotting (both stimulation and inhibition of blood clotting). It also plays a role in bone formation. In addition to being found in food, vitamin K is manufactured by bacteria present in the intestine, hence the rarity of deficiencies in this vitamin.
Choosing the right cucumber
The cucumber must be firm, have a very green, matte skin (it is only shiny if it is covered with a food wax) and generally smooth (with the exception of the pickle). The smaller it is (25 cm to 30 cm), the more it tastes.
The different varieties
The American varieties are rather short and stocky, while the European cucumber is long and thin.
In the refrigerator: one or two weeks in the vegetable drawer. Once started, protect it with cling film. Avoid keeping cucumbers near fruits (apples, in particular), which by releasing ethylene, contribute to increase the bitterness.
In the freezer: cook it before freezing.
How to cook it? How to match it?
You can peel or not peel the cucumber, or peel it partially by removing strips with the peeler. Remember, however, that the most nutrients are found in the skin.
While greenhouse cucumbers are rarely bitter, those grown in the open can occasionally be bitter, depending on the variety and various climatic factors. In this case, it is recommended to peel them and remove the sharpest end (the one to which the stem is normally attached), because it is under the skin and at this end that the bitterness is concentrated. You can also cut them into slices that you can drain for one hour in a colander with coarse salt. Or split them in half, seed them and sprinkle them with salt. Rinse and dry with a cloth.
Finally, they can be seeded to reduce the flatulence associated with the consumption of seeds. To do this, split them lengthwise and scoop out the center using a spoon.
One of the simplest ways to prepare the cucumber is to cut it into thin slices and let it marinate for about an hour in a mixture comprising water (1 cup), vinegar of your choice (1/2 cup) , sugar or honey (2 tbsp.) and a pinch of salt or a little tamari. Drain and serve as a marinade or relish, or add to salads.
Cold cucumber soups
Grate or dice the cucumbers and place them in a colander with a few spoonfuls of salt. Rinse, drain and then prepare them according to the recipes offered below. Serve these chilled soups with crushed ice, if desired.
- Mix them with yogurt, chopped nuts, minced garlic, dill and a few drops of walnut (or olive) oil.
- Gazpacho: mix with diced peeled and seeded tomatoes, red pepper and lemon, finely chopped onion and garlic, a hint of hot pepper, chopped herbs (chives, parsley, chervil, mint, etc.), bread crumbs, cream or yogurt, a little olive oil and vinegar, season with salt and pepper.
- Russian-style soup: cook over low heat in water beet, cucumber and thinly sliced fennel, as well as grated black radish; when the vegetables are tender, add a little crème fraîche and season with lemon juice and chopped chives. For a more daring variant, serve these raw vegetables as a salad.
- Chinese style: cook the cucumber in broth with slices of shiitake mushrooms or black mushrooms (rehydrate them for an hour before cooking), a little soy sauce, grated ginger and crabmeat or shrimp . Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves or another herb of your choice.
- Dice and sauté in butter with chopped onion and spinach. Drizzle with broth, salt, pepper, simmer for half an hour and pass through a blender. Reheat, add cream or yogurt and serve.
- At the grecque: take thick yogurt (Mediterranean type) or drain plain yogurt in a muslin for a few hours. Mix with finely chopped cucumber and crushed garlic. Cool before serving with bread or as a dip with raw vegetables.
- Japanese style: drain thin slices of cucumber, rinse, drain and squeeze with your hands to remove excess water. Serve with thin slices of crab and a few drops of ginger juice (finely cut the ginger, put it in a muslin and squeeze over the food). You can also cut the cucumber into sections, empty it from its seeds using a small spoon and stuff the sections with crab meat and marinated ginger. Then cut into thick slices.
- Indian style: in a raïta with drained yogurt, diced cooked beets and diced tomatoes, roasted peanuts, coriander leaves, chopped hot pepper, coconut, cumin seeds roasted in a little oil and, if the ‘we find some, asa-foetida.
- Sashimi: stuff thin slices of raw fish, strips of cucumber and pepper, as well as scallions split in half; form a roll and serve with soy sauce flavored with lemon juice. For vegetarian sushi, garnish a seaweed leaf with vinegared rice and cucumber strips, form a roll and cut into sections.
- Thai salad: mix cucumber slices, red pepper julienne, chopped shallot and coriander leaves with honey, rice vinegar and salt. Serve cold. For variation, omit the pepper, replace the coriander with dill, pepper and sprinkle with paprika.
- Greek salad: mix tomato wedges, chopped cucumber, sliced onion, pitted black olives and feta. Season with lemon juice vinaigrette.
- Seaweed and shrimp salad: prepare the cucumber and let it drain. Mix it with cooked shrimp peeled and cut lengthwise, strips of wakame seaweed rehydrated for five minutes in water and well dried and thin slices of ginger. Serve with a vinaigrette made up of rice vinegar, dashi broth, soy sauce, mirin and honey that will have been cooked for a few minutes, then cool.
- Braised: sauté shallots in butter or olive oil, add half-slices of seeded cucumber, cook for a few minutes, then add chicory or radicchio leaves, finely chopped and cook for one minute. You can add a spoonful of crème fraîche or yogurt at the end of cooking. Garnish with chopped dill or celery seeds. It can also be cooked with peas and fresh mint, wet with water or broth.
- Parboiled: cooked in butter and seasoned with pepper and cloves, the small whole pickles will accompany a meat or a fish.
- It can be made into a mousse or juice (pass it through the juice extractor with more substantial vegetables: carrot, beetroot, radish, etc.).
- Small French pickles: barely 2 cm long, these pickled pickles are traditionally served with pâté. You can also finely chop them and incorporate them into a mixture of hard-boiled eggs crushed with mayonnaise that can be served on canapes or in sandwiches. Or mix them with tuna meat, anchovies, olives and fromage blanc. Or add them in a sauce that will accompany grilled meat, in tartar sauce, in a potato salad, etc.
Oral allergy syndrome (ODS)
Cucumber is one of the foods that can be implicated in oral allergy syndrome. This syndrome is an allergic reaction to certain proteins from a range of fruits, vegetables and nuts. It affects some people with allergies to environmental pollens. This syndrome is almost always preceded by hay fever. Local symptoms limited to the mouth, lips and throat such as itching and burning sensations may then occur, and usually disappear within a few minutes after consuming or touching the offending food.
In the absence of other symptoms, this reaction is not serious and consumption of cucumber does not have to be systematically avoided. However, it is recommended that you consult an allergist to determine the cause of reactions to plant foods. The latter will be able to assess whether special precautions should be taken.
The term “cucumber” appeared in the language in 1256, first in the form of “cucumber”, a word borrowed from Provençal. It comes from the Latin cucumis or cucumeris.
The cucumber comes from India or, at least, was it domesticated there. Like the other plants of the cucurbit family, its domestication dates back to the first days of agriculture. The genus Cucumis includes two large groups – Asian and African – distinguished by their geographic location and the number of their chromosomes. The first gave birth to the cucumber as we know it today, as well as to its variants, the second to the melon.
From India, the cucumber spread quickly in the south and east of the Himalayan range. From there, he took the direction of Greece and Italy on the one hand, and China on the other hand, where we selected varieties very different from Europeans. It was cultivated in France in the 9th century, in England in the 14th and in America in the middle of the 16th century. However, until the 17th century, the fruit remained small.
Over the selections, the cucumber has lost much of its bitterness, which is caused by the presence of cucurbitacin, a toxic compound in high doses. The selection work also made it possible to obtain varieties of various shapes and colors ranging from the thin and long Japanese cucumber, garnished with longitudinal grooves, to the small lemon cucumber, round in shape and yellow in color, through to English, long, smooth and usually grown in a greenhouse, and white-skinned cucumber, small or large depending on the variety. Other species have given rise to the West Indian pickle, the Armenian cucumber, the snake cucumber, the horned melon (with green flesh) and the chito melon which, despite their name, are eaten like cucumbers.
The “snake” cucumber can reach a length of 35 cm. Streaked with dark green and pale green bands, it has the property of growing in the form of a spiral (hence its Latin name of flexuosus), while its “head”, attached to the plant, rises as if to whistle.
Sow four or five seeds on mounds one meter apart. Keep the three most beautiful plants on each mound. You can also make the plants climb instead of letting them crawl: this method has the advantage of keeping the plants healthier and giving fruits of uniform color, of exercising better control of insects and diseases, of facilitating the harvest. and save space in the vegetable patch. In this case, sow one or two seeds every 20 cm to 25 cm. Provide a structure about two meters high and a solid rope for each of the plants.
To get a little ahead, you can start your plants indoors three weeks before the planting date or buy plants in a garden center.
- Soil: fertile, rich in organic matter and which drips well; avoid planting cucumbers where other plants of the cucurbit family (squash, pumpkin, melon) have grown the previous year; choose a sunny location with good air circulation.
- pH: ideally 6 to 6.5, but can tolerate lower pH.
- Fertilization: bury a good amount of decomposed manure or compost before planting.
- Irrigation: 2.5 cm to 5 cm of water per week on average when it is not raining. When the plant lacks water, the fruit remains small, deforms or chokes. However, reduce the water supply towards the end of the season.
- Mulching: mulching to conserve moisture and limit the growth of weeds.
- Harvest: harvest every two days to prevent the fruit from being too large. For the market, fruits are generally harvested when they are 14 cm to 20 cm in size and 4 cm to 5 cm in diameter, but nothing prevents them from being harvested smaller, they will only be better.
- Insects: in the family vegetable garden, the insect to be feared is the striped beetle: cover the border with a light agrotextile when sowing or transplanting, in order to prevent it from landing. However, it will be necessary to remove the canvas at the time of pollination, as the cucumber needs bees to bear fruit. From that point on, rotenone or neem may be used in the event of infestation. It is important to limit populations of beetles, as this insect is a vector of bacterial wilt, a disease for which there is no treatment in organic farming.
- Diseases: the main one is powdery mildew, which usually appears in late August. To prevent it, from July, spray the leaves with a garlic extract diluted in water every week. To treat it, spray elemental sulfur or a copper-based solution (Bordeaux mixture).
Ecology and environment
No wonder people say cucumber is refreshing. In hot weather, while everything gets hot to the touch, the cucumber stays fresh. Even in direct sunlight, its internal temperature is 6 to 8 degrees lower than the ambient temperature.
In Costa Rica, as in other tropical countries, the cucumber moth causes extensive damage and loss. The use of chemical insecticides causing inevitable pollution, other solutions are required. An experiment was therefore carried out with a product known as “Effective Microorganisms (ME)”, of which there are a few variants and which consists of various mixtures comprising dozens of species of microorganisms whose role does not strictly speaking is not to fight against insects, but rather to create an environment allowing the plant to strengthen and defend itself against them. Indeed, these little beasts invisible to the naked eye produce a whole battery of plant hormones, bioactive substances and antioxidants.
During this experiment, foliar applications were carried out every four days: in the control group, only water was applied, in the second group, a mixture of microorganisms diluted in water, and in the third, two mixtures combined. The results left no doubt as to the effectiveness of microorganisms in fortifying cucumber plants against the European corn borer: 80% of the fruits in the control group were infected against 36% in the second group and only 9% in the third. In addition, the treated groups were less affected by leaf spot and other diseases characteristic of humid tropical climates.
Some believe that this approach goes beyond organic farming. Indeed, effective microorganisms make it possible to avoid the use of natural insecticides and fungicides accepted by organic certification bodies. Rather, it aims to regenerate useful microbial populations in the soil, to create an environment that promotes the development of plants and to help them mobilize all their resources to fight against pathogens and to develop to the maximum.