CUCUMBER - MOUTHWATERING VEGETABLE

DR. S. M. ALAM
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Oct 31 - Nov 6, 2011

Cucumber is a widely cultivated plant in the gourd family that includes squash. There are three main varieties of cucumber: slicing, pickling, and purple. Within these varieties, several different cultivars have emerged.

Cucumber is originally from India, but is now grown in almost all continents. Many different varieties are traded on the global market. In Pakistan, cucumber is largely grown in all the provinces and largely is used as an item of salad during lunch period.

A Quranic Verse about cucumber states as: And (remember) when you said, "O Musa (Prophet Moses)! We cannot endure one kind of food. So invoke your Lord for us to bring forth for us what the earth grows, its herbs, its cucumbers, wheat and garlic, its lentils and its onions".

Cucumbers are scientifically known as Cucumis sativus and belong to the same botanical family as melons (including watermelon and cantaloupe) and squashes (including summer squash, winter squash, zucchini, and pumpkin). Commercial production of cucumbers is usually divided into two types. Slicing cucumbers are produced for fresh consumption. Pickling cucumbers are produced for eventual processing into pickles. Slicing cucumbers are usually larger and have thicker skins, while pickling cucumbers are usually smaller and have thinner skins.

Cucumber plants naturally thrive in both temperate and tropical environments, and generally require temperatures between 60-90∞F/15-33∞C. For this reason, they are native to many regions of the world. In evolutionary terms, the first cucumbers were likely to have originated in Western Asia (and perhaps more specifically in India) or parts of the Middle East.

Cucumbers are mentioned in the legend of Gilgamesh-the King of Uruk-who lived around 2500 BC in what is now Iraq and Kuwait. It was approximately 3,300 years later when cucumber cultivation spread to parts of Europe, including France. And, it was not until the time of the European colonists that cucumbers finally appeared in North America in the 1500's.

Today, the states of Florida and California are able to provide U.S. consumers with fresh cucumbers for most of the year (from March through November).

Imported cucumbers from Mexico are commonly found in groceries during the winter months of December, January, and February. In California alone, about 6,600 acres are planted with slicing cucumber varieties and 4,400 with pickling cucumbers. Worldwide, China is by far the largest producer of cucumbers, and provides about two-thirds of the global supply.

Iran, Turkey, Russia, Egypt, Spain, Mexico, the Ukraine, Japan, Indonesia, and the U.S., all participate in the world cucumber market, with an especially high number of exports coming from Iran, Mexico, and Spain. Annual production of cucumbers worldwide is approximately 84 billion pounds.

The cucumber is a type of melon and comes from the same family as watermelon, zucchini, and other squash. It is cylindrical in shape with lengths of approximately six to nine inches. Its skin is very similar to watermelon, ranges from green to white. Inside, the flesh is pale green and very juicy. The cucumber is a tropical plant but is also easily available in most part of the world. However, in some cultures, cucumber is more often used to make pickles.

Cucumber has an impressive amount of water (about 96 percent) that is naturally distilled, which makes it superior to ordinary water. Its skin contains a high percentage of vitamin A, so should not be peeled off. The cucumber contains alkaline-forming minerals and is an excellent source of vitamin C and A (anti-oxidants), manganese, molybdenum, potassium, silica, sulfur, and lesser amounts of vitamin B complex, sodium, calcium, phosphorus and chlorine.

You have seen beauty practitioners use slices of cucumber on their eyes. It is found that the caffeic acid in this vegetable helps to prevent water retention and when applied topically, helps reduce puffy and swollen eyes.

Many people are ignorant of the immense health benefits of cucumber and avoid eating cucumber. Fresh cucumber may taste bland to some but its thirst-quenching and cooling properties are refreshing. It acts as an anti-oxidant when taken together with fried and barbequed foods. Someone likes to mix cucumber juice with carrot or orange juices.

The alkalinity of the minerals in cucumber juice effectively helps in regulating the body's blood pH, neutralizing acidity. The juice is also soothing for the treatment of gastric and duodenal ulcers. Like celery, this colorless drink can help regulate blood pressure, because of its minerals and traces of sodium. The excellent source of silica contributes to the proper construction of connective tissues in our body as in the bones, muscles, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons.

During dry and hot weather, drink a glass of cucumber plus celery juice. It wonderfully helps to normalize body temperature. Cucumber juice is diuretic, encouraging waste removal through urination. This also helps in the dissolution of kidney stones. The temperature regulating properties in cucumber juice makes it a suitable drink when you have a fever. The Chinese think that cucumbers are too "cooling" and not suitable for people with rheumatism. But, we know now that cucumber can help counter uric acids that are causing inflammation in joints. When cucumber is taken, it does its cleaning work at the joints, thus stirring up pain as it eliminates the uric acid. This means it also help other inflamed conditions like arthritis, asthma, and gout. The silicon and sulfur content in cucumber juice makes it especially helpful in promoting hair growth. Drink it mixed with carrot, lettuce or spinach juice.

The high amount of vitamin C and anti-oxidants in cucumber makes it an important ingredient in many beauty creams for treating eczema, psoriasis, acne, etc. When there is a sun-burn, make cucumber juice and rub it on the affected area for a cooling and healing effect. It supplies the necessary electrolytes and restores hydration of the body cells, thus reducing water retention.

The skin of a cucumber is rich in fiber and contains a variety of beneficial minerals including silica, potassium and magnesium. The silica in cucumber is an essential component of healthy connective tissue, which includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bone.

Cucumber juice is often recommended as a source of silica to improve the complexion and health of the skin, plus cucumber's high water content makes it naturally hydrating-a must for glowing skin.