Friday, July 1, 2011


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The cucumber, having originated in India, has been cultivated for 3,000 years in Western Asia.  It was used by the Romans who were probably responsible for introducing it into the rest of Europe.  Today, China is the largest producer, followed by Turkey, Russia, Iran and the United States.  It is not surprising that two of the largest producers are located in the Middle East, as it as been grown there for millenia.

And after 3000 years there are many, many varieties of cucumber, several of which can be found in supermarkets, specialty stores and farmers' markets in this country.  There are three basic varieties of cucumber which are briefly discussed below.

Most people in this country are familiar with what is called a 'slicer', the variety found in most supermarkets and grown in backyard gardens.  It is used in its unripe green form since it becomes bitter and sour as it ripens.  This cucumber is found in salads and sandwiches and is eaten out of hand with a little salt.

Another variety is the 'pickling' cucumber which is generally smaller and bred to have characteristics suitable for pickling.

The third variety found in this country is the 'burpless' cucumber.  This category includes the English, Japanese, and Persian or Mediterranean cucumbers (my favorite).  They are called burpless because they are almost seedless and have thinner skins than the other variety that is eaten raw.  The seed and thicker skins of some cucumbers are believed to cause gas in some people.

Cucumbers are about 90% water and have a high content of vitamins A, B6 and C.  The skin is high in fiber as well being high in the minerals calcium, potassium, magnesium and silica.

Next week I will post a recipe for Aqua Fresca, a wonderful drink that is delicious and perfect for the hot, hot days of summer.

Cleo, Food Bank Volunteer

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