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Often referred to as and used as a vegetable, the cucumber is actually botanically classified as a fruit from a gourd (squash) family. The cucumber is thought to have originated in India and has been cultivated for more than 3,000 years. Over that time to today, a wide variety of cucumber types have been and are currently grown and eaten all over the world. Not only a good source of water, cucumbers also contain many of the daily recommended vitamins and minerals the body needs to stay happy and healthy.

If you need a pick-me-up during the day, cucumbers are a fantastic choice for a raw food snack. This refreshing fruit can rehydrate, cool, and energize the body, but even if you eat a basket of fresh cucumbers everyday you still need to drink plenty of water. For a super refreshing drink, slice up some cucumber and add to a glass of cold water. Serve and eat it raw, skin peeled, unpeeled, dipped in your favorite plant-based dip or sauce, or pickled to mouth-puckering perfection.

Want a way to help control and maintain your blood pressure? Eat cucumbers! Eating cucumbers can help you stay healthy by boosting your immune system, flushing out toxins, and aiding in digestion. They are also good for your kidneys, contains beneficial anti-inflammatory properties, and replenishes the vitamins that you use up during the day. With around 15 calories in 1 cup raw and plain, they are low in fat and cholesterol.

Vitamins and minerals: vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, iron, some (very little) fiber in the skin, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. To be sure you are getting a full range of vitamins and minerals, it is best to eat raw, unpeeled, and organic, or juice and drink a fresh cucumber juice for quicker nutrient absorption.

The two basic categories of cucumbers are slicing cucumbers and pickling cucumbers. Slicing ones are generally longer and grow in various shades of green with a smoother texture; grown to be eaten fresh and raw. This category includes such cucumbers as: English, Persian, Armenian, and Lemon (lemon – round in shape, yellow in color when ripe). While any cucumber can be pickled, those specifically grown for pickling are shorter, fatter, and tend to have a bumpier skin than ones for slicing. Pickling cucumbers include the Kirby cucumber, and even Lemon.

There are many different varieties of cucumbers that are grown and distributed worldwide for consumption with some of the most popular slicing types being the English cucumber, Persian cucumber, and the Lemon cucumber.

What cucumbers have you successfully grown in your home garden? Do you have any growing tips or suggestions for new cucumber gardeners?

Let’s learn a little bit more about English and Lemon:

The English cucumber is long and thin with little to no tiny seeds. Its thin, dark green skin has a very slight sweet taste making it enjoyable to eat the whole cucumber, skin, seeds and all; the skin offers additional vitamin C and a small amount of fiber. However, the taste can become bitter and the flesh dry if it gets too old. You can easily recognize English cucumbers in the store because they are commonly covered in a clear plastic wrap to keep it fresh. Slice up and enjoy with a homemade hot sauce or hummus – check out these flavorful hummus recipes from One Green Planet: Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus.

As they look very different from the recognizable long and green cucumber, let’s discuss Lemon cucumbers. They are roundish with a bright yellow color when ripe, their appearance is of a citrus lemon, and they can be spotted with little spiky dots. You can easily remove the spiky dots by washing, then lightly running the back of a kitchen knife over the skin to scrape. Lemon cucumbers, yellow skin left on, are sweet and delicate, but if left to age for too long can become bitter with large hardened seeds that become difficult to chew. These are excellent chopped into salads or made into a quick pickle mixture to snack on. Salads don’t have to be boring! Read through our 5 Step Guide to Making Vegan Super Salads for salad tips and recipes.

Are you a foodie and world traveler? We would love to hear about the wonderful and different types of cucumbers that you have seen or tasted!

Photo Source: MDMallett/Flickr