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Cucumber: Telegraph »« Courgettes

Cucumber Short

Cucumis sativus


Description

One of the most popular salad vegetables, the cucumber is prized for its refreshing flavour. There are a huge number of varieties, but the short cucumber, along with the telegraph, is among the most easily available.

The short cucumber has a thicker skin and stronger flavour, and is often used peeled and de-seeded. Also found in the supermarket are the Lebanese cucumber, which is a crisp, small cucumber, and less commonly, the apple cucumber, which has a round shape and apple-like flavour, and is used in salads and cold summer soups such as gazpacho.

Whichever variety you choose, look for a cucumber that’s free from wrinkles and mushy, watery spots. Cucumbers are sensitive to heat, so store them in the vegetable section of the fridge.

Cucumbers are high in vitamin C and other trace minerals, and have diuretic properties, which makes them popular with those on diets.

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History

Like other members of the Cucurbitaceae family of gourds, which includes squash, the cucumber is one of the earliest known vegetables and records of its cultivation go back 4,000 years. It is believed to have originated in southern India, where it is still used mixed with mint and yoghurt for the cooling condiment raita.

It was also big in ancient Greece and Rome, with the Roman Emperor Tiberius insisting on having it with every meal. It was used to treat several maladies, as well as scare away mice.

Uses

The cucumber is primarily used a salad vegetable. Try adding it to rice and pasta salads – or, if you want to be different, substitute the rice and pasta for quinoa or barley, and add your cucumber and any other ingredients, such as capsicum, tomato, and feta.

For a quick and easy raita to accompany curry, mix grated cucumber and plenty of chopped mint into natural yoghurt.

Cucumber can also be used in stir fries – it’s an acquired taste, and needs only brief cooking.

Facts

In old books, you might see the term ‘cowcumber’ used. This probably comes from a time when cucumbers were seen as being fit only for cows to eat, raw vegetables having a bad reputation.

Gherkins are a variety of cucumber, albeit a small and knobbly one. Though you can pickle any cucumber, those used for pickling commercially are bred especially to be a uniform size and shape.

Due to its silica content, cucumber is great for the skin.



Cucumber: Telegraph »« Courgettes

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