The cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is a widely cultivated plant in the gourd family Cucurbitaceae, which includes squash, and in the same genus as the muskmelon. You can see how the seeds fill the body of the vegetable in a similar way.
Having an enclosed seed and developing from a flower, botanically speaking, cucumbers are classified as fruits. However, much like tomatoes and squash they are usually perceived, prepared and eaten as vegetables.
Cucumbers are usually over 90% water, but also contains ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and caffeic acid, both of which help soothe skin irritations and reduce swelling. Cucumbers' hard skin is rich in fiber and contains a variety of beneficial minerals including silica, potassium and magnesium.
The cucumber is also listed among the foods of ancient Ur and the legend of Gilgamesh describes people eating cucumbers. Some sources also state that it was produced in ancient Thrace, and it is certainly part of modern cuisine in Bulgaria and Turkey, parts of which make up that ancient state. From India, it spread to Greece and Italy (where the Romans were especially fond of the crop), and later into China.
According to Pliny the Elder, the Roman Emperor Tiberius had the cucumber on his table daily during summer and winter, and Romans devised greenhouses to provide him with this daily feast. Charlemagne had cucumbers grown in his gardens in ninth-century France. They were reportedly introduced into England in the early 14th century, lost, then reintroduced approximately 250 years later. The Spaniards (in the person of Christopher Columbus) brought cucumbers to Haiti in 1494. In 1535, Jacques Cartier, a French explorer, found “very great cucumbers” grown on the site of what is now Montreal.
Throughout the 1500s, European trappers, traders, bison hunters, and explorers bartered for the products of American Indian agriculture. The tribes of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains learned from the Spanish how to grow European crops. The best farmers on the Great Plain were the Mandan Indians in what is now North and South Dakota. They obtained cucumbers and watermelons from the Spanish, and added them to the crops they were already growing, including several varieties of corn and beans, pumpkins, squash, and gourd plants. The Iroquois and Cherokee were also growing them when the first Europeans visited them.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
Use half-inch thick cucumber slices as petite serving "dishes" for chopped vegetable salads.
Mix diced cucumbers with sugar snap peas and mint leaves and toss with rice wine vinaigrette.
For refreshing cold gazpacho soup that takes five minutes or less to make, simply purée cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers and onions, then add salt and pepper to taste.
Add diced cucumber to tuna fish or chicken salad recipes.
Raita (Cooling Cucumber & Yoghurt Sauce)
Cucumber Soup (Hot or Cold)
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