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Cucumbers: from ancient history to many varieties – Italian cuisine reinvented by Gordon Ramsay


Before being included in the eighteenth century in Linnaeus’ classifications as Cucumis sativumthe cucumber, defined by Lorenzo the Magnificent as «aperitif and healthy, is cited with the name of «cedriuolo (from citrusdue to its slightly acidic taste) by Pietro Andrea Mattioli, the famous botanist of the sixteenth century, who, being also a doctor, saw it as a purifying agent, anti-inflammatory And diuretic (today we know that it contains iron, calcium, phosphorus and vitamins B and C) and understood its benefits also «for external use, to refresh the skin and reduce wrinkles, redness and puffiness (such as: bags under the eyes!). It is not for nothing that it is a main component in many lines of beauty products.

From a nutritional point of view, beyond the most common uses – preserved, like the classic and always welcome pickled gherkin, or in Greek tzatziki – it is an essential component of fast food sandwiches, and with a good scientific basis: the cucumber combined with wholemeal bread, thanks to the tartaric acid it contains, it moderates the absorption of carbohydrates which often turn into fat. And then, very low in calories but rich in fibre and water, and therefore very filling, it is the king of summer diets.

(Historical research by Marina Migliavacca and Valeria Nava)

Know the ingredient: Cucumber varieties

Cucumbers belong to the family of Cucurbitaceaesuch as pumpkin, courgette, melon and watermelon. They have in common the fact that they grow on an annual, creeping herbaceous plant, covered in hair and equipped with tendrils, those curls that serve to firmly anchor themselves to supports or to the ground. All fruits are called peponids and contain a large quantity of seeds in the central part. Also suitable for growing in pots, as long as they have good exposure to the sun and without stagnant water, they grow well at a temperature between 15 and 25 °C. Let’s get to know the types of cucumber now.

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A typical variety of Puglia, which the region itself, in collaboration with the University of Bari, has chosen to protect through projects for the promotion of horticultural agro-biodiversity. It is distinguished from other cucumbers by its more rounded shape and its striped rind, sometimes similar to that of watermelon. It is very sweet and more digestible than other varieties because, like the Barattiere (n. 5), it belongs to the species Cucumis melo (that of melon) and is free of the molecule that makes cucumbers difficult to digest.

Minute

As the name suggests, this variety of cucumber is small in size, contains few seeds and is very crunchy.

Telegraph

Even more than 30 cm long, it is completely devoid of thorns on the skin but may present some small protuberance (tubercle). With a very delicate flavor, it is easily digestible. Choose those that do not exceed 3 cm in diameter: they are particularly sweet.

Snack

Small in size, to be nibbled even as a snack, as the name suggests. It does not peel.

Barrater

Another variety from Puglia, also known as Tondo di Fasano. It is not really a cucumber because it is of the same species as melon, of which it also has the shape. Buy those no bigger than a baseball. Crisp and very fresh, it is perfect for adding a twist to a mixed fruit salad.

Marketer

The most classic of cucumbers. Like all varieties, it has refreshing and purifying properties. It is rich in vitamin C and mineral salts and low in calories. It is also used in cosmetics for its ability to soften the skin.

Kiwano

Its scientific name is Cucumis metuliferus. It comes from the African continent and has been known for centuries. The plant has the same characteristics as the others, that is, it is a climber with yellow flowers and hairy leaves; the fruit instead has a leathery rind, orange in color when it is at the right stage of ripeness, provided with pointed protuberances, for this reason it is also called horned melon. The pulp inside is composed only of seeds covered in mucilage, the effect is similar to that of the passion fruit. The flavor is particular: a cross between that of cucumber and that of lemon with hints of banana.

The Euganean Hills are now a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve – Italian cuisine reinvented by Gordon Ramsay


THE Euganean Hills I am now a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve. A new important recognition for Italy, which has demonstrated how viticulture can play a key role in preserving and enhancing nature and biodiversity, if carried out with attention, respect and a conscious commitment projected into the future.

The Coordinating Committee of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme officially sanctioned it during the 36th session held in Agadir, Morocco, with the designation of 11 new Biosphere Reserves in 11 countries (including, for the first time, Belgium and Gambia) and two transboundary reserves. With these new reserves, which cover a total surface area of ​​37,400 km², equivalent to the size of the Netherlands, the World Biosphere Network now has 759 sites in 136 countries around the world.

As far as Italy is concerned, in addition to the Transboundary Reserve of the Julian Alps (derived from the merger of the two reserves created in 2019 and 2003 respectively), the Euganean Hills, a short distance from Padua, represent an important novelty, with their fascinating geological history. The hills were formed millions of years ago, thanks to the activity of the numerous active volcanoes in the area. When they died out, the highest peaks emerged, creating a group of rocky islets in the “Po Valley Sea”. Erosion over the centuries has shaped the landscape, removing the softer rocks and leaving visible the hard, conical and steep volcanic rocks. Over the centuries, the climate, vegetation and human activity have further modified the environment, creating a territory very precious for biodiversity, also protected by the Euganean Hills Regional Park which, established in 1989, became the first regional park in Veneto.

Over thirty different vines in a single territory

The Euganean Hills cover an area of ​​about one hundred square kilometers with a total surface area of ​​the Park of 18,684 hectares. Mount Venda, with its 601 meters of height, dominates the over one hundred hills that form the Euganean complex. And the wine represents a fundamental element of the landscape. The production area of ​​the DOC Colli Euganei coincides with that of the Park, and is divided at an administrative level into 15 municipalities, rich in history and tradition.

«The inclusion of the Euganean Hills in the List of UNESCO World Biodiversity Reserves – comments the president of the Consorzio Tutela Colli Euganei Gianluca Carrara – it is an extraordinary opportunity for our territory and for our wine. We have supported the candidacy from the beginning, of which we feel an active part. Our viticulture is an expression of biodiversity: here we grow over 30 different vines”. An infinite variety, which also passes through theattention to the environmentwith due respect for landscape constraints, but also by the use of low-impact cultivation techniques thanks to which hundreds of animal and plant life forms are preserved. From an oenological point of view, the wines of the Euganean Hills are expressed in three different denominations: the Serpentinevolcanic and with spring scents, the Reds from the Euganean Hills (based on Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere) and then the Moscato of the Euganean Hillsavailable in dry, sparkling and passito. The president concludes: «Our vineyards cover a considerable area of ​​the Park, over 3000 hectares, and contribute to the protection and conservation of the territory. With their daily work, the producers are committed to the management of water, woods and soil, a fundamental role today in light of climate changes that are increasingly evident.

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