FANTASTIC FOODS: Cucumbers
Let us consider the lovely Cucumber (Calcumis sativus) which is not a vegetable, but rather, a fruit — a fruit in the same botanical family as melons and squash. Generally, we think of the many varieties of cucumbers to be one of two types — either a type best sliced and eaten fresh, or a type best pickled (which may, or may not, mean fermentation, depending on the pickling method). Beyond the light, medium, and dark green varieties we’re all use to seeing, there are also many varieties that are orange, white, and yellow in color.
The cucumber is thought to have been originally domesticated and grown for human consumption in ancient India—perhaps as far back as 4,000 years ago — and then its cultivation and consumption grew out from there — into the Middle East and then up into Europe via the Romans who highly revered them.
Christopher Columbus brought cucumbers to the so-called New World of the Americas when he introduced them in Haiti in 1494. From there, they were introduced to the North American native tribes by various European trappers and explorers, and the Native Americans took to growing them enthusiastically as it became quite clear to them their nutritional and medicinal benefits.
Cucumbers are even mentioned in a key and dramatic passage in the Bible at Isaiah 1:8 where it says: “And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city.”
As for the specific benefits of cucumbers, they contain a unique combination of a group of phytonutrients called flavenoids, triterpenes, and lignans. The lignans, themselves, contain a grouping of several varieties that specifically help reduce the risk of certain particularly estrogen-related cancers—including cancers of the ovaries, uterus, breast, and prostate.
The other aspects of the phytonutrients provided by cucumbers provide superb antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support for the human body. One cup of sliced, raw cucumber provide a daily recommended value of Vitamin K of 19%, molybdenum of 12%, and Vitamin C and potassium of 4% — along with comparable percentages of a host of other vitamins and minerals.
The exterior body anti-inflammatory benefits of cucumbers have been reknown for millenia. Indeed, the application of fresh cucumber upon the skin reduces irritation, swelling, and other varieties of skin inflammation — including sunburn. In antiquity, cucumber was often directly applied to almost any kind of wound to the skin—including scorpion and other insect stings and bites.
Science is only now really beginning to focus and make tests upon the unique nutritional specificities of cucumbers and how they relate to the subtle health intracacies of the human body and, like so many other fantastic foods, the body of human knowledge is growing and being constantly revised as we discover more and more benefits within these foods.
It’s remarkable the amount of nutritional power and unique combinations of healthful substances that cucumbers contain while simultaneously being made up of no less than 95 percent water.
If you slice them thin enough, it’s great to consume them with the skin on as it just adds more nutrients and fiber. If you like them pickled — either actually fermented or just done-up primarily with vinegar — as long as you’re not a salt-a-holic, that’s also great and reasonably healthy way to enjoy them.
Besides all the other benefits, cucumbers are uniquely tasty — yet gentle to the palate, and refreshing and hydrating to eat. So go get some cukes today and consume them plain or combined with almost any kind of salad — you just can’t go wrong.