Week 36: Cucumbers
In a technical sense, cucumbers are actually fruits, not vegetables (because they contain seeds). All cucumbers belong to the botanical plant family called Curcubitaceae which also includes melons and squashes. Cucumbers come in a wide variety of colors, sizes, shapes and textures.
Cucumber plants naturally thrive in both temperate and tropical environments and for this reason they are native to many regions of the world. 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). Worldwide, China is by far the largest producer of cucumbers and provides about two-thirds of the global supply.
All cucumbers can be divided into two basic types: slicing and pickling. Slicing cucumbers include all varieties that are cultivated for consumption in fresh form. These varieties tend to be fairly large in size (easier for slicing) and thick-skinned (easier to transport in their whole form without damage). Pickling cucumbers include all varieties that are cultivated not for consumption in fresh form, but for processing into pickles. While pickling cucumbers can always be eaten fresh, their smaller size and generally thinner skins make them easier to ferment and preserve.
Cucumbers provide us with a variety of health-supportive phytonutrients. They are an excellent source of vitamin K and molybdenum. They are also a very good source of pantothenic acid. Cucumbers are a good source of copper, potassium, manganese, vitamin C, phosphorus, magnesium, biotin, and vitamin B1.
Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Benefits: These are due to the phytonutrients in cucumbers as well as the conventional antioxidant nutrients including vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese. The specific antioxidant benefits include increased scavenging of free radicals and increased overall antioxidant capacity. Fresh cucumber extracts have also been shown to reduce unwanted inflammation in animal studies.
Anti-cancer benefits: Research on the anti-cancer benefits of cucumbers is still in its preliminary stage and has been restricted thus far to lab and animal studies.
Selection and Storage:
Since cucumbers can be very sensitive to heat, choose those that are displayed in refrigerated cases in the market. They should be firm, rounded at their edges, and their color should be a bright medium to dark green. Thin-skinned cucumbers will generally have fewer seeds than those that are thick-skinned.
Cucumbers should be stored in the refrigerator where they will keep for several days. They should not be left out at room temperature for too long as this will cause them to wilt and become limp.
This is a super yummy salad with farro and cucumbers by Pamela Salzman. I substituted out the beets with tomatoes.