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Cool Off With Cucumber

Updated on July 21, 2018
Faceless39 profile image

I'm a dental hygienist, pyrography artist, avid gardener, writer, vegetarian, world traveler, and many other things!

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Whether in jest or during a hot summer day, we've all heard the phrase, "cool as a cucumber," and most of us have used it ourselves. It's become one of those sayings that people use all the time, but I never really thought about what it meant--until now.

All I knew for sure was that when I went to India, the cooling raita was made of cucumbers mixed with yogurt. Used as a palate cleanser, it helped cool the mouth after eating spicy meals.

I'd also heard of the British (in India?) partaking of copious amounts of cucumber sandwiches. I've seen it in movies, and have experienced it firsthand.

With all this evidence, you'd think I'd have asked this question before: are cucumbers really cooling? Or is it just one of those things people say, but the true meaning was lost centuries ago?

Cucumbers Really *Are* Cooling

Medium-sized cucumbers with soft, small seeds have the best flavor
Medium-sized cucumbers with soft, small seeds have the best flavor | Source

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary entry for cucumbers (here), the phrase "cool as a cucumber (c.1732) embodies ancient folk knowledge confirmed by science in 1970: [the] inside of a field cucumber on a warm day is 20 degrees cooler than the air temperature."

In some amount of disbelief (and being the scientist I am), I went in search of other sources to back this claim up. I mean, 20 degrees is a pretty major difference, and if true, that would explain many things: the raita, the cucumber sandwiches, and not to mention the saying.

Through some sleuthing around, I finally came across many more, similar claims. Apparently the fact that cucumbers are made of 96% water allows their core temperature to remain 20 degrees lower than outside temps.

I spent about an hour on Google Scholar looking for the peer-reviewed paper that first claimed this scientific fact; alas, I could not find it. However, the closest I got to confirmation from official sources was the CDC's (Centers for Disease Control's) mention of the fact in their cucumber article, here.

Any way you look at it, though, even if it's not a full 20 degrees (fehrenheit, I assume) cooler than outside temperatures, the fact that it cools the body isn't debatable. Eat some cucumber yourself, and just see how it makes you feel!

Amazing Cucumber Facts

Cucumbers are a fruit
Cucumbers are a fruit | Source
  • In popular terms, "cool as a cucumber" means someone who is laid back
  • Cucumbers originated in India, and have been cultivated for at least 3,000 years
  • They were probably introduced to the rest of the world by the Romans
  • Native Americans were cultivating cucumbers that they got from the Spanish as early as the mid-1500s
  • China is the largest producer of cucumbers, producing 40,709,556 tons in 2010
  • Cucumbers are a fruit
  • Cucumbers are often pollinated by bees
  • The legend of Gilgamesh describes people eating cucumbers
  • The Roman emperor Tiberius had cucumbers every day, year round. "Indeed, he was never without it; for he had raised beds made in frames upon wheels, by means of which the cucumbers were moved and exposed to the full heat of the sun; while, in winter, they were withdrawn, and placed under the protection of frames glazed with mirrorstone." Reportedly, they were also cultivated in cucumber houses glazed with oiled cloth
  • They were called "cowcumbers" from the 1600-1800s. This stemmed from the notion that uncooked vegetables were responsible for summer diseases, and were fit only for cows to consume
  • Cucumbers were reportedly introduced into England in the early 14th century, lost, and then reintroduced about 250 years later
  • There are two types of cucumber: slicing and pickling
  • Cucumbers that are soaked in vinegar and spices become pickles (gherkins)
  • Cucumbers get their taste from the seeds. Medium-sized cucumbers with soft, small seeds have the best flavor

Nutrition Information (1/2 cup slices, 52g)

At just 45 calories per medium cucumber, they are considered a low-calorie food
At just 45 calories per medium cucumber, they are considered a low-calorie food | Source
Nutrient
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Calories
8 kcal
(Calories From Fat 1)
Total Fat
0.1 g
0%
Saturated Fat
0.0 g
0%
Polyunsaturated Fat
0.0 g
-
Cholesterol
0 mg
0%
Sodium
1 mg
0%
Total Carbohydrates
1.9 g
1%
Dietary Fiber
0.3 g
1%
Sugars
0.9 g
-
Protein
0.3 g
-
Vitamin A
7.5 mcg
2%
Vitamin C
4.2 mg
2%
Vitamin K
25 mcg
30%

Recipe: Cucumber & Red Onion Salad

Source

Ingredients

  • 2 cucumbers
  • 3 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 red onion, peeled, sliced, and separated into rings
  • 1 tsp dry dill

Directions

  1. Rinse and scrub the cucumbers
  2. Thinly slice the cucumbers into circles
  3. Mix the vinegar, salt, pepper, dill, and sugar in a bowl
  4. Add the cucumbers and red onions
  5. Mix well
  6. Serve chilled or at room temperature

Recipe: Cucumber Raita

Source

Ingredients

  • 1 medium cucumber
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cups plain yogurt (or plain soy yogurt)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh coriander (or mint), chopped
  • Cayenne pepper or paprika as garnish

Directions

  1. Wash and peel the cucumber
  2. Cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch sections, then crosswise into thin slices
  3. Place cut cucumbers onto towel to dry away the moisture
  4. Turn the heat to high and toast cumin seeds for a few mins, constantly stirring
  5. Stir the yogurt (or soy yogurt) to smooth it, and add the cumin seeds, garlic, and coriander (or mint)
  6. Add cucumbers to the mixture, and add cayenne or paprika as garnish on the top
  7. Chill before serving; serve with sliced raw vegetables, rice, bread, or on its own

Recipe: Cucumber Cocktail

Source

Ingredients

  • 4 slices of cucumber
  • 3 sprigs of mint
  • 1.5 oz gin
  • 0.5 oz simple syrup
  • 0.5 oz lime (or lemon) juice
  • Some ice cubes

Tools

  • Muddler (something to mash with)
  • Shaker (something you can shake liquid in)
  • Strainer

Directions

  1. Muddle (mash) cucumber and mint and add to shaker
  2. Add gin, simple syrup, and lime (or lemon) juice, and shake with some ice
  3. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with cucumber slice and sprig of mint

Source
Source

Do you think you'll ever be as cool as a cucumber?

See results
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© 2012 Kate P

Comments

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    • Sparkle Chi profile image

      Cate 

      6 years ago from Chandler, AZ

      Fantastic information! We started using cucumbers quite often when the area of Arizona we were living in regularly heated up to 115F. We usually end up juicing them though.. my kids don't like the flavor!

      I love the recipes you shared.. I can't wait to try them!

    • Amethystraven profile image

      Amethystraven 

      6 years ago from California

      I like cucumber in my water with slices of lemons, limes, or oranges. It is cooling. Try cucumber in lemonade sometime, that is tasty as well.

    • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kate P 

      6 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      92 and humid today; a great day for cucumber sandwiches.

      Thanks for the cool comments. If you have any favorite cucumber recipes, let us know!

    • Angela Kane profile image

      Angela Kane 

      6 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      I purchase cucumbers every week and use them in salads. Cucumbers are a very good idea to cool down in the summer and the Cucumber Raita looks very good.

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 

      6 years ago from United States

      cucumbers are my favorite too. I love to indulge in cucumber raita esp during summers.

      Great read. Was interesting to know about the produce and history of this marvelous vegetable/fruit (debatable topic :)

      many votes and sharing it across

    • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kate P 

      6 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      Wow, what an amazing recipe! I've got most of the ingredients now, though I think I'd leave out the green olives. You sound like a very healthy person, and I love how you mention romaine (rather than lettuce), and black beans (my favorite!) I'll definitely have to try this out; it sounds delicious!

      Thanks!

    • kj force profile image

      kjforce 

      6 years ago from Florida

      a great receipe for salad/ sandwich/burger ( veggie or beef/turkey)...finely chop up fresh plum tomatoes/green tomatoes/cukes/onions/avacado/black beans/green olives..salt/pepper to taste.(* add raisins/dried fruit).mix with chopped up greens

      ( romaaine,parsley,spinach..etc) and top your sandwich..or just eat plain...awesome palate cleanser also...my G-children love it..low in calories ( you can add a drop of lemon/lime)...enjoy and let me know how you liked it....

    • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kate P 

      6 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      There's nothing quite like a cool, watery cucumber to cool you down in the summer. Lately I've been eating cucumber sandwiches with hummus, lettuce mix, and stone ground mustard. Wow!

      I'd never thought of juicing them and spraying them, but I bet it smells wonderful. And yeah, avoiding chemicals is great.

      Thanks for the cool comments! Do you have recipes? Let us know!

    • kj force profile image

      kjforce 

      6 years ago from Florida

      Faceless39...very well written and interesting hub....cukes are not only delicious, and rehydrating, but try placing 2 cold cuke slices on eyes when they are puffy or irritated.

      I use a juicer and put the liquid in a spray bottle( keep in fridge) to spritz on my body in the summer , smells great and NOT a chemical..hence safe for cooling off a baby...nice job with the subject...

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      6 years ago from North Texas

      Very interesting hub! This is the time of year when information like this can be so useful. 103 degrees here where I am yesterday and working up to it again today.

      Your recipes look great too. Especially the cucumber/red onion salad, and the cucumber cocktail. They make a person feel cooler just looking at them!

      Voted you up, interesting, and useful!

    • profile image

      stessily 

      6 years ago

      Faceless39, Yes, cukes are wonderful for dipping into hummus. And I agree: I also prefer thin rounds. I'm having visions of cukes and hummus and some pita for scraping the hummus bowl clean at the end!

      Appreciatively, Stessily

    • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kate P 

      6 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      I'm glad to see the cool cucumber is so widely revered. Cucumbers are beautiful, cooling, and healthy. I forgot to mention that they're also great for dipping into hummus. I prefer thin rounds.

      Thank you all very much for your cool comments!

    • profile image

      stessily 

      6 years ago

      This tribute to cucumbers is informative and enjoyable. Cucumber raita is one of my favorite snack items; it is amazingly cooling, and I could not eat enough of it when I was in India. Your raita recipe is close to mine, so I can attest to its excellence, from my own experience. Also, the sampling of cucumber recipes you've generously provided is superb. And to think that your fine research was motivated by a phrase which so many say without a second thought: "cool as a cucumber"! Well done. Sharing.

      Appreciatively, Stessily

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 

      6 years ago from the South

      This is such a fascinating hub. I love cucumbers and eat a lot of them. I never knew they were helping me cool off. Some great facts about them too...never knew they originated in India! Great Hub Faceless!

    • vox vocis profile image

      Jasmine 

      6 years ago

      That's good to know! Botanically fruits vs. vegetables in the culinary context!

    • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kate P 

      6 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      Yup, it's pretty random, but I'm glad you enjoyed it. I agree that cucumbers are absolutely beautiful; just looking at them makes me feel cool and relaxed. As for them being fruits, as a biologist I can honestly say that anything that has seeds is a fruit. So now you know!

      Thanks for the cool comments!

    • A K Turner profile image

      Joseph A K Turner 

      6 years ago from West Yorkshire

      this has to be the most random article ever, and I love it! I didn't know cucumbers originated in India. Well formed and I love the pictures

    • profile image

      kelleyward 

      6 years ago

      What a beautiful hub. I love cucumber water and so do my boys. I'll try some of these recipe ideas. Voted up and shared! Kelley

    • vox vocis profile image

      Jasmine 

      6 years ago

      Interesting hub! I wasn't familiar with all the facts about cucumber before, for example, I thought only tomatoes were fruit (although they are still vegetables to me lol). Other facts were a discovery, too. Voted up!

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