Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
The cucumber was domesticated in India around 1500 BCE, arrived in the Mediterranean region about a thousand years later, and is now the second most important cucurbit worldwide after the watermelon. Like the watermelon, cucumbers are notable for their crisp, moist, mild, refreshing character. They’re mainly consumed raw or pickled, and sometimes juiced to make a delicately flavored liquid for use in salad dressings, poaching fish, and other procedures. The distinctive yet melon-like aroma of cucumbers develops when the flesh is cut or chewed, and comes from the action of enzymes that break long membrane fatty-acid molecules into smaller chains that are 9 carbon atoms long; the characteristic melon fragments are alcohols, the cucumber fragments aldehydes. The larger a cucumber grows, the lower its acidity and the higher its modest sugar content (1–2%).