The cucumber, or cucumis sativus, is a perennial and monoecious plant, which means that each plant has both male and female reproductive organs. They belong to the same family as other fruit and vegetables such as courgettes and melons and are traditionally seasonal in the summer, but nowadays, thanks to intensive farming, this healthy food can be enjoyed all year round.
Size, colour, bitterness, spines… There are many ways to differentiate between the numerous varieties of cucumber around.
Varieties with the biggest fruit are usually grown for fresh cucumbers, such as Ashley, Cubit, Marketmore, Negrito and Poinsett. When cucumbers are pickled, they are called gherkins, and are usually made from varieties with smaller fruit such as Vorgebirge, Wisconsin, Fanto, Levo, Pioneer or Witlo.
Agrosol Export cucumbers
In Agrosol’s crop plan for this year, there are 2 types of cucumber: Almeria and Midi.
•Almeria Cucumber: This is also known as the Dutch cucumber, because it was Dutch growers who introduced this variety here more than 30 years ago. The fruits grown at Agrosol are very long (up to 40cm in length), very straight, and of course have no spines. They are characterised by their very smooth, bright green skin, and have a mild flavour with no bitterness.
•Midi Cucumber: This variety has the same organoleptic qualities as the Almeria cucumber, but is smaller in size. We grow this fruit at Agrosol because its size makes distribution to our clients and selling in supermarkets easier. The reason is very simple: the price is less per unit for a standard price per kilo and saves having to cut the larger cucumbers into more marketable sizes, which in turn increases their shelf-life.
Cucumbers originated from Asia, or India to be more specific, where they were cultivated 3000 years ago and have been mentioned in Indian texts from the first millennium B.C. Although we usually associate them with Greek food, the spread of cucumbers to Europe didn’t happen until many centuries later. They didn’t come to the Mediterranean until the 6th or 7th Century, and were introduced to Europe through Al-Ándalus (now Spain) in the 10th Century.
Unlike other fruits and vegetables, cucumbers continued their journey in the reverse direction, and were introduced to America by Spanish colonists after its discovery in 1492.
Nowadays their prevalence is widespread, and they are a key part of many global cuisines. They are normally eaten raw in salads, but are also harvested and pickled in order to preserve them, which is when they become gherkins.
Cucumbers are an extremely healthy and refreshing food. They are great in salads, but also have many more uses in your kitchen.
CHILLED CUCUMBER SOUP
Gazpacho isn’t the only soup that can be eaten cold. Here’s one that uses cucumber as its main ingredient.
Ingredients: 2 large cucumbers, half an onion, one small spoon of salt, 500 grams of natural yoghurt.
Method: Peel the cucumbers and cut them into small pieces. Put all the ingredients apart from the salt in a food processor and blend until they have reached a smooth consistency. Salt to taste and blend one more time before serving.
Serving suggestion: Chilled soup should be served straight out of the fridge. It will need to be refrigerated for at least 2 hours to reach its ideal temperature.
Greek recipes use cucumbers a lot. A good example is this dip, which is delicious all year round, particularly during the summer months. It can be eaten as an accompaniment or even in a salad.
Ingredients: 3 large cucumbers, 1 clove of garlic, 2 servings of natural yoghurt (preferably Greek yoghurt), one teaspoon of dried dill, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper.
Method: Wash and peel the cucumbers, then cut into pieces. Put all the ingredients apart from the salt and pepper in a food processor and blend until well mixed. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix one more time.
Serving suggestion: This dip is fantastic with pita bread, and can also be used in salads or as an accompaniment to a main dish. Its cool flavour goes well with fried vegetables as part of a vegetarian diet.
HYDRATING CUCUMBER AND YOGHURT FACE MASK
We couldn’t tell you about the cosmetic properties of cucumbers without giving you something to try at home. This mask really hydrates the skin thanks to its nourishing powers on the face.
Ingredients: 1 large cucumber, 6 tablespoons of natural yoghurt.
Method: Wash the cucumber with the skin on and cut into large pieces. Add the yoghurt and blend both ingredients until the mask is well mixed.
Serving suggestion: Don’t eat it! Or do if you like, it is edible… Apply the mask onto a clean face and let it work for 15 minutes before washing off with plenty of cold water.
China, like with many other crops, is the leading producer of cucumbers with around 70% of global production. Iran, Turkey, Russia and the United States are amongst other significant cucumber-producing countries, and Spain has become one of the top 10 producing countries within the last decade.
Cucumbers are increasingly being used for cosmetic purposes like homemade moisturising creams. Similarly for personal care, they are being used more and more in purifying, detox and anti-aging diets.
One of the latest culinary trends for cucumbers is their use in cocktails. For example, Hendricks gin recommends making gin and tonics with their Bulgarian rose and cucumber infused gin. Although we recommend that alcohol be consumed in moderation, cucumbers from our greenhouses are perfect for this drink. If you do get carried away, at least cucumbers will help with the hangover…