The Roman Emperor Tiberius had a passion for
cucumbers and insisted on eating them at every meal. They have been
eaten and enjoyed for centuries for their cool, crisp qualities.
Technically, the cucumber is a large berry.
The cucumber belongs to the curcurbitaceae
family, which includes squash, zucchini, pumpkin and melons. It is
thought to have originated in India - South Asia. In the 14th
Century it was known as a cocumer, which by the 17th century had
become cowcumber. By the 1800's, it was known as the
After being cultivated in India for
hundreds of years, the cucumber was taken to China in 140 BC. It is
uncertain when it reached Europe, however the early Greeks were
familiar with it, calling it sikhous, thinking it possessed all
sorts of marvellous properties.
The Romans valued it also, growing cucumbers in beds
mounted on wheels, so that they could be taken in and out of the
sun. Gentlemen gardeners in the 17th and 18th Centuries grew them
in special cucumber houses.
Because of a reputation for causing indigestion,
burpless varieties have since been developed.
Despite being 96% water, cucumbers
contain useful amounts of Calcium, Potassium, Phosphorous, and
Vitamins B and C - mainly in the skin.
Contrary to the popular belief that they cause
indigestion, cucumbers contain a pepsin-like substance which
actually aids digestion.
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Bianchini, F; Corbetta, F; et al.
The Complete Book of Fruits and Vegetables
[English Translation] (New York: Crown, 1976)