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. Cucumbers didn't get to England until about the 14th century and had to be grown in hothouses. Cucumbers arrived in the America in the early 16th century.
Cucumbers are members of the Cucurbitaceae (Cucurbits) family, which also includes melons, gourds and squash. 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 are specially cultivated to make pickles.The 'Pickling cucumbers' are usually much smaller than slicing cucumbers, and often have thick, warty skins.
English Cucumbers are always slicing Cucumbers, they won't stand up to pickling. A slicing cucumber is great served raw in salads, sandwiches (I love cucumber sandwiches, crusts cut off please :) drinks, sushi, and hors d'oeuvres to add crunch, but they can also be cooked like zucchini.
Unwaxed cucumbers do not need to be peeled but should be washed before cutting. Waxed cucumbers should always be peeled first. Many cooks remove the tips, peels and seeds, which are tough and bitter in some varieties. To seed a cucumber, cut it lengthwise and scrape the seeds out with a spoon or knife.
Cucumbers are not only used in salads and pickles, they can also be used as a side vegetable to alot of meals. Because cucumbers contain a high percentage of water they are best either steamed or fried.
An easy recipe is to steam sliced cucumbers, season with ground black pepper and served with melted butter and some chopped herbs like, tarragon, dill, mint, parsley. Or top with a plain white sauce or even a cheese sauce with added celery seeds.
Bake - Cut the cucumbers into pieces and put into a ovenproof dish, dot with a little butter. Sprinkle over chopped herbs, or even a small chopped chilli. Cover then bake in a hot oven. This makes a great side dish to fish.
Fry - Cut into slices and steam for 5 minutes, dredge lightly with flour and fry in butter until golden brown. Season and serve.
Try them in a soup
CUCUMBER & WATERCRESS SOUP
A very light and refreshing soup that is and quick and easy to make.
2 bunches Spring onions, chopped
2 bunches Watercress
1 large Cucumber,seeded and chopped. - if using smaller cucumbers use about 3 or 4
1 3/4 pint water or light Vegetable stock
salt & black pepper
Melt the butter, add the spring onions and cucumber and cook to soften. Add the watercress, salt & pepper, water or stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Whizz up and serve with a little creme fraiche. Or serve chilled.
CUCUMBER & MINT RAITA
Great served with a curry dish ~ Serves 4
250ml greek yogurt or natural yogurt
1/2 cucumber, grated or finely chopped
Large handful mint leaves, chopped
1/2 - 1 green chilli, deseeded & finely chopped - optional
Mix together all ingredients and serve chilled as a accompaniment to any curry or as a dip for onion bhajis
Tip ~ if grating the cucumber, then squeeze out a little of the juice before
adding and mixing with the other ingredients.