The cucumber is native to Southern Asia, and is a widely cultivated vegetable throughout the world. A member of the gourd family, cucumbers are recognized by their smooth skin, and their narrow and cylindrical shape. Growing to around 1-2 inches in diameter, cucumbers grow on a creeping vine. It should be noted that the cucumber does come in various shapes, sizes and colours, but are traditionally like the one described above. An interesting fact about this popular vegetable is that the cucumber is usually contains more than 90% water in total! This popular vegetable is not only popular because of the facts your are about to read, but also because they are available throughout the year, and are at the peak condition during the warmer season between May to August.
Cucumbers are known for their high nutritional and health beneficial properties. They are known to contain high levels of antioxidants, and have anti-inflammatory properties. Furthermore, cucumbers have anti-cancer benefits, although this research is continuous. Containing a variety of vitamins and minerals, cucumbers are a great addition to one’s diet. To make the most of all these nutritional values when eating them, make sure to choose firm and green cucumbers, and avoid those that are limp and soft.
Before discussing how to prepare cucumbers, it should be noted that the skin and seeds of cucumbers are rich in a variety of nutrients, making it a desirable part of the vegetable to consume. However, it must be noted that many of the cucumbers grown now have a waxy coating that may contain unwanted chemicals. If you would like to keep and eat the skin of the cucumbers, it is recommended that you leave the skin or organically grown cucumbers on but if you do not know, perhaps removing is better. However, there is little research on this, so preparation is key! Make sure you wash the cucumber well as to remove any undesired dirt. Peel or score the skin, and cut as desired. To remove any of the excess bitterness naturally contained within cucumbers, sprinkle the washed and cut vegetables with salt and leave to stand for around 20-30 minutes. Then rinse, drain and remove any excess water as desired. This part of the preparation is similar to that when cooking eggplants.
Overall, the texture of cucumbers is firm and succulent, while the taste is mild. Cucumbers can be added to a variety of meals. They can be eaten raw (only once properly cleaned etc.), sliced into various salads or even marinated on its own. Within Chinese cooking, pickle cucumbers are a firm favourite, or eating them raw in stick form to accompany Peking duck is a popular dish. Cucumbers make great additions to stir-frys, especially with ginger and a variety of other vegetables and meats.