Cucumber: Important Facts, Health Benefits, and Recipes

Explore the health benefits, history, and various types of cucumbers, along with storage tips and delicious recipes featuring this versatile vegetable.

What Is a Cucumber?

The cucumber is a cultivated creeping vine plant that bears fruits shaped like cylinders that are eaten as vegetables. The creeping vine roots in the ground and grows up trellises or other supporting frames, wrapping around supports with thin, spiraling tendrils . The plant can also root in an environment without soil and it will spread along the ground instead of a supporting structure. The cucumber vine has large leaves that form a canopy over the fruits.

Are Cucumbers Good For You?

Yes! They are a good source of many vitamins and nutrients.

6 Health Benefits Of Cucumbers

  1. Cucumbers are good sources of phytonutrients (plant chemicals that have protective or disease preventive properties) such as flavonoids which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits.
  2. The peel and seeds are the most nutrient-dense parts of the cucumber. They contain fiber and beta-carotene.
    • Beta carotene is an antioxidant that helps the immune system, skin, and eye health.
  3. Cucumbers are a source of calcium, which is good for bone health. One medium cucumber has about 3% of our daily needs for calcium.
  4. Cucumbers have a cooling and soothing effect that decreases swelling, irritation and inflammation when used on the skin.
    • Like at a spa, cucumber slices can be placed on the eyes to decrease puffiness or help with sunburn when placed on the affected areas
  5. Cucumbers are a source of Vitamin K, which is important for bone health.
    • Vitamin K helps us absorb calcium into our bones
    • A study done in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) showed that low vitamin K levels were associated with low bone density in women, but not in men.
    • Another study published in the AJCN found that low intakes of vitamin K were associated with an increased risk of hip fractures in middle-age women
  6. Cucumbers are hydrating (95% water) which is good for digestion and keeping our skin and body hydrated

History, Background, And General Facts about Cucumbers

  • The cucumber originates from South Asia (India) and is now grown on most continents
  • Around 2 to 3 millennia BC, early Indian civilization domesticated cucumber and started infusing it into their cuisine. As time went by, their manufacturing capabilities expanded, and in the 1st millennia BC they started trading with Middle Eastern civilization and Europe.
  • Cucumbers moved through Ancient Greece, Rome, Europe, New World, China, and eventually became the fourth most widely cultivated vegetable in the world.
  • In 2010 worldwide cucumber production was 57.5 million tons, with the majority of the world’s production and export being located in China (40.7 million tons).
  • The cucumber is classified as a pepo , a type of botanical berry with a hard outer rind and no internal divisions. But like tomatoes, it is eaten as a vegetable
  • Botanically speaking, a fruit is the mature ovary of a flowering plant and is used by the plant to disperse seeds. The term “vegetable,” is commonly used to describe any other edible part of a plant.

What Are The Cuisines That Regularly Include Cucumbers?

  • Greek/Mediterranean - tzatziki sauce, Greek salad
  • French - baked cucumbers
  • British - cucumber sandwiches
  • Thai - Ajad cucumber salad (vinegar, sugar, shallots, red chiles - pickled)
  • Chinese - smashed cucumber salad with sesame oil and garlic
  • Japanese - Sunonomo cucumber salad (vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, sesame seeds)
  • Russian - cucumber salad with a sour cream and dill dressing
  • Italian - tomato and cucumber salad (basil, oregano, red wine vinegar)
  • Spanish - cucumber salad (tomato, red onion, olive oil)
  • Indian - kachumber cucumber salad (tomato, red onion, cilantro, cumin, red chile powder, lemon juice)
  • Mexican - cuernavaca cucumber salad (white onion, oregano, lime juice)

What Is The Best Way To Store Cucumbers?

Store whole cucumbers in the drawer in the refrigerator and not in a plastic bag to avoid faster spoilage. Store sliced fresh cucumbers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Overall, cucumbers do not store well so the best is to buy them right before you need them for a dish.

Types Of Cucumbers

There are many types of cucumbers but here are some common categories referred to in many recipes throughout the world.


Slicing: Cucumbers grown to eat fresh are called slicing cucumbers. They mature on vines with large leaves that provide shading. Slicers grown commercially for the North American market are generally smoother, more uniform in color, and have much tougher skin. European cucumbers (English cucumbers), are smaller and have thinner, more delicate skin, often with fewer seeds and are sold in plastic skin for protection.


Pickling: Pickling with brine , sugar, vinegar , and spices is the how pickling cucumbers are made pickles into pickles. Picklers tend to be shorter, less-regularly shaped, and have bumpy skin with tiny white or black-dotted spines.


Gherkins: These are also called cornichons, or baby pickles, are small cucumbers, typically 1 to 5 inches in length, often with bumpy skin, which are typically used for pickling. The word gherkin comes from the early modern Dutch gurkenoraugurken('small pickled cucumber').


Burpless: Burpless cucumbers are sweeter and have a thinner skin than other varieties of cucumber. They are apparently easier to digest. They are most commonly grown in greenhouses and are often found in grocery stores, shrink-wrapped in plastic.


Armenian: Also known as snake cucumbers: These are long and twisted with thin, dark green skin. People often use them for pickling.


Japanese Cucumbers: These are dark green and narrow. The skin is thin with small bumps on it. People can eat them whole.


Kirby Cucumbers: People often use these for dill pickles. They are crispy, with thin skin and small seeds.


Lemon Cucumber: These are around the size of a lemon, with pale skin. The taste is sweet and delicate.


Persian Cucumbers: Shorter and fatter than the hothouse cucumber, these are crunchy to eat.

Toxicity and Side Effects Of Cucumbers

If you can, buy organic cucumbers because pesticides are used on conventional cucumbers. Waxes are also sometimes applied (organic and non-organic), but the organic version has a more natural type of max than the type used on conventional cucumbers. But if you don’t have access to organic, it’s still better to eat the conventional cucumber rather than not eating it at all.


Cucumber has vitamin K . Eating too much cucumber could affect how a person’s blood clots. People who use warfarin (Coumadin) or similar blood-thinning drugs should talk to their doctor about how much cucumber they should eat before indulging.

Nutritional Facts
1 cucumber
Amount per serving
10.9 g
0.3 g
2 g
Saturated Fat
0.1 g
6 mg
1.5 g
5 g