Who really gives a fuck about cucumbers? They're basically water wrapped in a green vegetable blanket. Surprisingly, many cultures around the world are all about this flavorless non-food and will go to great lengths to defend their native phallic vegetable. Grab the salt shaker, we’re diving deep into the world of big, thick, and juicy cucumbers around the world.
The Gourd’s the Word
Another annoying vegetable that’s actually a fruit, cucumbers were first cultivated in Southern Asia before spreading their vines all over the world. Currently, there are innumerable varieties, ranging in size from the little baby gherkins to quirky Kirbys and big ol’ English giants, all of which are separated into slicing, pickling, and burpless (because they’re easier to digest) categories for easier man-handling.
OTP Fun Fact: Every damn food in the world was at some point thought to have cooky medicinal purposes and housewives used to strap on cucumbers around their waists to beckon the fertility gods. Proof that some dirty ideas have been around longer than you think.
Just because Persia no longer exists, doesn't mean they don’t rep their cukes. A small, thin-skinned variety, these little Persian stallions come from the area where Africa meets the Middle East and were cultivated on a Kibbutz in North Israel. Like your favorite Beverly Hills neighbor, this burpless variety can keep its internal temperature at a cool 20 degrees below its hot and flashy skin.
OTP Fun Fact: Armenian cucumbers are long, ribbed, and wild. If you’re looking for the Ron Jeremy of the bunch, this guy’s got the goods.
English (also known as hothouse) cucumbers grow up to two feet long if cultivated under ideal conditions. The ancient Romans were obsessed with this variety since the 13th century and babied them with greenhouses that utilized selenite (a clear, heat-trapping mineral) that kept the 80 to 85 degree range required for them to grow long and prosperous. These guys aren’t reserved solely for those with a EU card. English cucumbers are used in popular dishes worldwide.
India’s got a weird-ass round and yellow variety of their own called the Dosakai and cukes of all types play an important role in Indian cuisine. You know how most Indian food turns your mouth (and asshole) into a flaming pit of fire? Well, raita, a concoction of yogurt and cucumber, serves to cool that dragon breath and allows you to continue stuffing your face with the spice. Now when all that shit hits your traveling belly, the cucumber takes a step back and let's you settle the score on your own. Job well done.
In Russia, pickles are the jam. To deal with the biting cold of Russian winters, people do two things: 1) preserve summer veggies by pickling them and 2) drink a stupid amount of vodka. These two practices collide often in the form of shots with pickle-backs. Russians don’t just stick to dill either. Pickles are often “mala-solniy” which means they are preserved with less salt than the face-puckering kind you’re used to. Perhaps cutting the sodium is a smart way to avoid the inevitable bloating that will follow a night out of vodka drinkin’ and pickle-backin’.
Home of crazy cucumber varieties, while you’ll find the long-and-green in Japan, they also mix it up with melon-shaped cucumbers, crispy suhyo cucumbers, and the super-bumpy sooyow nishiki. Namako, or sea cucumbers, are also a big hit in Japan. Vegetarians hold on to your hummus, these things are animals. Eaten raw like sashimi, these sea slugs come in a bunch of varieties and because people love to munch on their sluggy insides, are becoming over-exploited in many parts of Japan.
OTP Fun Fact: Modestly endowed Japan is huge on their pickles too! So much so that they actually have a shrine dedicated to the god of pickles in the city of Ama to which many-a-pickle-lover pilgrimage every year on August 21st for national pickle day.
Wherever you may find yourself in the world, next time you walk into the produce section right when some woman is inspecting a long, juicy cucumber, you now have enough fodder to legitimately strike up a conversation. Or just let her stroke that cuke while your creep behind the tomatoes as per usual.