by: Tom Midford
The cucumber originated in India, where it was first cultivated around 2,000-3,000 millennia BCE. It spread to Europe and the Middle East by the first century BCE, and the cucumber is featured in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
It was also popular in Ancient Greek culture. During this time, the cucumber spread to Eastern Europe, Turkey, Italy and Africa. It was during the Roman Empire that consumption of cucumbers really took off. The 2nd Roman Emperor, Tiberius, was apparently obsessed with the vegetable, and demanded to eat cucumbers every day of the year.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the cucumber fell out of fashion. However, a notable instance of cucumber consumption in the early Middle Ages was in the court of Charlemagne. The cucumber spread to England in the 14th Century.
The cucumber did not take hold, however, and was later introduced in the mid-17th century, when it did take hold. The Columbian Exchange further spread the plant to the New World, as it was introduced to Haiti by Christopher Columbus himself in 1494.
In the 16th Century, European trappers introduced the cucumber to the Native Americans of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains. Use of cucumbers plummeted during the 18th Century, but was reversed in the 19th Century. Today, China is the largest producer of cucumbers in the world.
Cucumber Vinegar Salad Recipe
6 Persian cucumbers
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
¼ cup white-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
Step 1 Using a mandoline (or a knife), thinly slice cucumbers 1/4 inch thick. Transfer the cucumber slices to a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl; sprinkle with sugar and salt. Toss to combine. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Step 2 Discard any liquid in the bowl and wipe the bowl dry. Transfer the cucumbers to the bowl and toss with onion, vinegar, dill and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days.
To make ahead Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Dansky, Liv. “Cucumber Vinegar Salad”. EatingWell, March 2022. https://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/7949982/cucumber-vinegar-salad/. Accessed May 14, 2022.
“History of Cucumbers”. Vegetable Facts. http://www.vegetablefacts.net/vegetable-history/history-of-cucumbers/. Accessed May 14, 2022.