Cucumber

Farmers Market
©DDF/VCIRCE

Cucumbers, or “Cowcumbers” as the English traditionally called them, are a widely planted and versatile vegetable with numerous health benefits.

Cucumbers are endemic to either Western or Southern Asia, but have been cultivated from China to the Middle East, and most places in-between, for thousands of years. It was not until much later that cucumbers arrived to Europe, but they were popular in the Roman empire, and finally came to the Americas via Christopher Columbus, where they were first planted in Haiti in 1494.

China is far and away the world’s largest cucumber cultivator (nearly two thirds of total global output, which is approximately 84 billion pounds annually), but it is not difficult to find domestically and even locally grown cucumbers in most parts of the United States during many parts of the year. Cucumbers can be grown in a variety of soils and temperate to tropical climates, though California and Florida account for the majority of United States cucumber production. Typical harvesting of cucumbers in the United States occurs between midsummer until late fall, and during the winter months, there are a fair amount of imported cucumbers coming from neighboring Mexico.

There are many different cucumber cultivars, but typically farmers classify cucumbers into two categories: slicing and pickling. Slicing cucumbers are those intended to be consumed fresh, while pickling cucumbers, not surprisingly, are destined to become pickles.

Cucumbers are high in flavonoids, antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, and many different phytonutrients, but a lot of these nutrients are contained within the dark-green skin, which many unfortunately decide to remove before serving. Cucumbers are mostly water, and are very low in calories and also have a low glycemic index. Cucumbers exhibit anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and some research studies have suggested cucumbers (along with several other plants) can help prevent and control diabetes, and also may help limit oxidative stress in diabetics.

Resources and Further Reading

A 2016 study concluded “C. sativus [cucumber] has protective effects in diabetes complications and can be considered a safe and suitable candidate for decreasing the oxidative stress and carbonyl stress that is typically observed in diabetes mellitus.”: 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27340622

A study from the 1990’s recognized the benefits of plant consumption, including cucumbers, in helping to prevent  diabetes:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8569244

More information about the history and care of cucumbers: 
https://extension.illinois.edu/firstgarden/planning/dictionary/veggies/cucumbers.cfm

Health Benefits and Nutritions Facts of Cucumbers: 
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=42

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