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Monday, 4 July 2011

Spot the frippet: cucumber.

What's the fastest vegetable on earth?

Well, it's not the cucumber because the cucumber is technically a fruit, but the cucumber is jolly fast all the same.

I'm talking about the famous exploding cucumber, Ecballium elaterium, here. It's a poisonous thing which grows on the ground and looks something like a lime.

When it gets ripe, especially if you poke it (and who could resist?) it explodes with satisfying violence, spreading its slimy innards all over everything in the surrounding area.

The ordinary eating cucumbers are natives of India, but they've long colonised the world. Cucumbers are eaten in the story of Gilgamesh, and the Emperor Tiberius grew them in greenhouses on wheels and ate some every day (which is about the only good thing I know about the Emperor Tiberius).

The cucumber is said to cure scorpion bites and bad eyesight, and also to scare away mice. You can put slices on your eyes to reduce puffiness, and cucumber sandwiches are essential for afternoon tea. Well, if you're a snob they are, anyway.

Eat your cucumbers long before they're ripe, though, or they will taste utterly disgusting.

Spot the frippet: cucumber. This word arrived, with the fruit, in the 1300s. It comes from the Latin word cucumis.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating stuff as usual. It always amazes me that cucumbers are related to melons etc. And cucumber sandwiches are boring, I reckon....they do cheer up a lot of other fillings though. Add a nice touch of moistness to tuna, eg and even Smoked Salmon!