[caption id="attachment_4388" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Cucumber"]Cucumber[/caption]

Cucumbers scientifically are known as Cucumis sativus and belong to the same family as watermelon, zucchini, pumpkin and other types of squash. They are either eaten fresh or pickled. Cucumbers that are cultivated to make pickles are oftentimes much smaller than slicing cucumbers. Gherkins are one variety of cucumbers cultivated for this purpose.

They are cylindrical in shape and commonly range in length from about six to nine inches, although they are smaller or much larger. Their skin, which ranges in color from green to white, may either be smoothed or ridged depending upon the variety. Inside a cucumber is a very pale green flesh that is dense yet aqueous and crunchy at the same time, as well as numerous edible fleshy seeds. Some varieties, which are grown in greenhouses, are seedless, have thinner skins and are longer in length, usually between 12 and 20 inches. These varieties are often referred to as "burpless" cucumbers since people find them easier to digest than the other varieties of cucumbers.

To be "cool as a cucumber" add them to your menus during the warm summer months when they are in season. This vegetable's high water content gives it a very unique moist and cooling taste. Slicing cucumbers are available year round; they are at their best from May through July. Varieties of cucumber are grown either to be eaten fresh or to be pickled. Those that are to be eaten fresh are commonly called slicing cucumbers. Cucumbers such as gherkins that are specially cultivated to make pickles are oftentimes much smaller than slicing cucumbers.  Cucumbers are best to be eaten as salad or by itself or even grated and mixed with yoghurt and eaten as raita. It makes one feel very refreshing.

Cucumbers were thought to originate over 10,000 years ago in southern Asia. Early explorers and travelers introduced this vegetable to India and other parts of Asia. It was very popular in the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome, whose people used it not only as a food but also for its beneficial skin healing properties. Greenhouse cultivation of cucumbers was originally invented during the time of Louis XIV, who greatly appreciated this delightful vegetable. The early colonists introduced cucumbers to the United States. While it is unknown when the pickling process was developed, researchers speculate that the gherkin variety of cucumber was developed from a plant native to Africa. During ancient times, Spain was one of the countries that was pickling cucumbers since Roman emperors were said to have imported them from this Mediterranean country.

The cucumber is a creeping vine that roots in the ground and grows up trellises or other supporting frames, wrapping around ribbing with thin, spiraling tendrils. The plant has large leaves that form a canopy over the fruit. Cucumbers are grown to be eaten fresh (called slicers). Those intended for pickling (called picklers) have a similar appearance. Cucumbers are mainly eaten in the unripe green form. The ripe yellow form normally becomes too bitter and sour. Cucumbers are usually more than 90% water.

The flesh of cucumbers is primarily composed of water but also contains ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and caffeic acid, both of which help soothe skin irritations and reduce swelling. Cucumbers hard skin is rich in fiber and contains a variety of beneficial minerals including silica, potassium and magnesium.

Cucumbers are a very good source of the vitamins C and the mineral molybdenum. They are also a good source of vitamin A, potassium, manganese, folate, dietary fiber and magnesium and contain the important mineral silica. Cucumbers have enormous health benefits as they are best natural diuretic known, secreting and promoting the flow of urine. Helps in kidney and urinary bladder disease, Liver disease and pancreatic disease.

Cucumber juice is also valuable for helping diseases of the teeth, gums, especially in cases of pyorrhea. A mixture of cucumber juice with carrot juice is said to be beneficial for rheumatic conditions resulting from excessive uric acid in the body. The high mineral content of this vegetable also helps to prevent splitting of nails of the fingers and toes.

Cucumber, radish and bitter gourd are beneficial in diabetes. Cucumber is an important health food. It provides a very healthy juice beneficial for increasing the flow of urine. For rheumatic conditions, it complements the effects of celery and carrot juice. Its juice is a soothing skin lotion. In fact, it is the best skin lotion. The peel, like lemon peel, is good to be used on the hands most especially after it's been in a strong detergent or in a very hot water.

Cucumber has cleaning properties that removes accumulated waste and toxins from our body. It may improve arthritis since it eliminates uric acid. Cucumber is also good to reduce heat and inflammation. It is very useful to treat tired eyes and remove the eye bags under your eyes by placing a slice of cucumber over closed eyes. It also helps lung, stomach and chest problems, gout, and tapeworm. Fresh cucumber juice is good to reduce heartburn or sooth stomach acid, also for those suffering from gastritis or ulcer.
Nutritive Values per 100 gm of cucumber are:

Vitamin A:  180 I.U.

Vitamin C:  9 mg.

Calcium:  32 mg.

Iron:  1.8 mg.

Phosphorus:  27 mg.

Potassium:  80 mg.

Carbohydrates: 17 gm.

Calories:  70