Bleh, there are very few vegetables that I’ll outwardly state I despise, but the silly little cucumber is where I’m willing to make the exception and take offense. I could just never stand it when it got itself into a handful of other more delicious foods or tried to sneak its way onto my plate when I wasn’t looking. But despite what I may say, cucumbers have millions of fans for all the right reason. Essentially, they’re one of the quintessential diet veggies, though they tend to change that rather easily. Let’s take a look then today at the cucumber.
Cucumber Culture and History
Finally, a definitive origin story! Cucumbers come from India where it has been cultivated for 3000 years, if not more, and have probably the most varieties grown there even today. Eventually it seems the Greeks or Romans decided to move the cucumber from India into Europe, specifically into France in the 9th century, then England in the 14th century, lost for 250 years and then found (I’m assuming Yakety Sax must have been playing), and eventually it travelled across the pond and landed in North America by the middle of the 16th century, which is about when I started hating them I believe.
My dislike of the cucumber aside, they were quite popular with the right crowd, even going back to the ancient city-state Ur, which I had to look up too so don’t feel bad (and of course you now have to look it up as well). But with all this spread across the world, including into China at some eventual point (everything eventually finds its way to China), would it really get significant recognition?
Of course it would! In the Roman Empire, Emperor Tiberius (look him up) supposedly had a cucumber on the menu every day during the summer and winter, which would actually just be every day of the year for the Romans. They accomplished this by what essentially sounds like witchcraft. Or clever agriculture, same thing. Point is, they were creating special cucumber houses and elaborate methods for ensuring that the emperor always had his daily cucumber. I would have had them make sure I had blackberries on my table over cucumbers, but whatever, that’s Tiberius’ business I guess. But Tiberius wasn’t the only ruler ever to have a love of the cuke. Charlemagne grew cucumbers in his gardens in France, so there.
Health Benefits of Cucumbers
Okay, I’m ragging on cucumbers, but it’s only because they’re gross and I hate them. Still…I know that they have a lot going for them, and obviously people the world over enjoy their taste at least somewhat. Probably the biggest draw is the fact that cucumbers have extremely few calories, none of which have any fat or cholesterol. To me, that’s just sort of boring, because I like my food dangerous and with a fatty kick! Yeah, I should probably shut up and eat more cucumbers.
Beyond being a low calorie food, they’re a very great source of fiber, specifically in the skin. That means that not only are you taking in very little by eating them, you’re also helping to remove a lot of other weight you may be carrying, and I mean that in the absolute most childish way (going to the bathroom, I’m making a bathroom joke).
Those simple facts aside, cukes are loaded with potassium, alpha and beta carotenes, vitamins A, C, and K, and even things called zea-xanthin and lutein. Those last two nutrients do something that’s…all sciency and…stuff. I think they help slow down aging and fight disease. You know, the usual sort of thing that good nutrients do. Well good for them and good for cucumbers!
Eating More Cucumbers
Okay, here we go now with my recommendations for eating more cucumbers, which is going against my natural reflect to throw all cucumbers into the sun (though roasted cucumbers may not be a bad idea). You’ve probably already encountered your fair share of cucumbers in salads and on sandwiches, but they are one of the standard go-to veggies when it comes to simple-yet-effective snacking foods. Take a cracker, put some cheese on it, and then throw the cucumber away…or put it on top I guess…and you have a simple snack. Some people even do away with the cracker entirely and just have cucumbers with cheese, specifically cottage cheese. Yeah alright, I can get behind cottage cheese, what else you got?
More than likely, you’re probably encountered a very special kind of cucumber- the pickled cucumber. Simply known as pickles, these cucumbers are about as different as they can be with a more sour taste brought on by the vinegar and brine. And yet, I don’t like these either, so there must be something very wrong with me. Pickles can be added everywhere you could think of, specifically befouling sandwiches, veggie burgers, veggie dogs, and veggie pizzas. Wait…maybe that last one is just something I saw on Ninja Turtles. No matter, pickles can go places that cucumbers can’t, but either way you get the same nutritional benefits, more or less, though be aware that pickles are typically higher in sodium due to being soaked in brine.
I need to take a step back now and let someone else talk about cucumbers. I’m very bad here as I just don’t know how to sell them properly. I love broccoli and brussel sprouts and beets, but cucumbers? I just can’t do it for some reason! Help me out, offer some recipes that can change my mind. How do you prefer to eat your cucumbers or pickles? Share some recipes and we’ll see if we can’t convert me to a cukehead!