If you are the sort who doesn’t really relish a plate full of greens, chances are you might be tempted to go for something approachable like a cucumber when told to eat your veggies. The question is, are these hydrating members of the gourd family actually a vegetable? Ask a chef and you will get a resounding “yes!” Ask a botanist, and you may be surprised to learn that cucumbers are actually fruit.
The cucumber plant, scientifically known as cucumis sativus, is part of the cucurbitaceae family. Two main types of cucumbers, the slicing cucumber and pickling cucumber, are commonly eaten, with their main use in the culinary world being hinted at by their name. Originally grown in Southeast Asia, cucumbers are now grown and eaten all over the world.
The difference between a fruit and a vegetable is somewhat down to who you ask. Principally the difference is based on the part of the plant in question. Botanically speaking, vegetables are the edible part of a plant such as leaves and stems that do not carry seeds. Fruits, on the other hand, come from the ovary of flowering plants. These seed-bearing plant products, such as commonly recognizable melons and berries, can eventually give rise to new plants.
Your broccoli crowns will never sprout new growth, but the seeds in a cucumber could grow into new plants if given the chance. According to the botanical definition, then, cucumbers are considered fruits. You might not think of cucumbers as fruit, but in botanical terms they have more in common with melons such as cantaloupe and watermelon than with other vegetables.
This puts cucumbers in the company of other undercover fruit such as eggplant, avocados, pumpkin, and even zucchini. When it comes to how they are served, though, things get a little more vegetative. Here, cucumbers, zucchini, and some other fruits are served alongside savory dishes or in sauces, which is typically the domain of veggies. This is not a hard line, though, as in some cuisines other obvious fruits such as apples can be used alongside pork, or apricots can add some sweetness to savory chicken.
Most people would rebel if you told them the pickle spear accompanying their burger was actually a fruit stick, but it is a fruit indeed. If you are trying to sneak some veggies into your diet by raiding the pickle jar, it turns out you might be coming up short on the nutrients you are looking for.
Unlike some other fruits and veggies, cucumbers are not especially nutritious. Due to their high water content, they are perfect for hydrating you, but not so good at packing much nutritional punch. Despite this, there are some smaller amounts of some important nutrients including:
The next time someone asks you to make a fruit salad, it may raise an eyebrow or two if you show up with a bowl of cucumbers and avocados, but many of the foods we eat as though they are vegetables actually meet the definition of a fruit.
Besides being a briny side dish for burgers, cucumbers can find their way into healthier dishes like smoothies and salads where they are likely to accompany more nutritious fruits and veggies. Mediterranean cuisine offers up preparations of the cucumber with feta, tomatoes, olive oil and a bit of salt, while the Asian roots of the cucumber can shine through when paired with rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame seeds.
From a culinary perspective, fruits like cucumbers and zucchini are often treated like vegetables. Since flavor and texture matters more than what function a part of a plant has when it comes to cooking, we treat cucumbers as though they were vegetables. With flavors leaning more toward savory than sweet, cucumbers are generally treated differently than sweet fruits like blueberries, raspberries, or kiwi fruit.
If you look up the product list we offer at FruitSmart, it might surprise you to find cucumbers. While it may seem like an outlier has snuck into the group, the properties that make cucumbers a fruit mean they are processed like other fruit, yielding high-quality juices, essences, and dry ingredients for use in a wide variety of finished products.
Cucumbers have uses that extend beyond the dinner table, with health and beauty products often including cucumber juice or essence. Like oranges and other fruits, there are more and more ways that natural products can be used outside of traditional culinary applications. The cool refreshing qualities that make cucumbers attractive as food also help make them ideal components of facial creams and other beauty products.
From face cream to staple side dishes, cucumbers are everywhere. This is one of the reasons we included cucumbers in our extensive product list at FruitSmart. If you want to know more about the advantages of partnering with FruitSmart, contact us today to learn more. Our commitment to quality, consistency, and always working to find new and innovative solutions make FruitSmart the ideal partner to help you navigate rapidly changing and challenging markets.