Daily entries from the 17th century London diary
"The cucumber is the edible fruit of the cucumber plant Cucumis sativus, which belongs to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae, as do melons and squash....The fruit is commonly harvested while still green, though generally after the fruits outgrow their spines. They are eaten as a vegetable, either raw, cooked, or made into pickled cucumbers." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cucumber
The most important idea of the cucumber, is to cut a fresh garden grown gourd, and wash, then slice thinly, so thy may see the thru the said slice, then apply the slices to a delicate thinly sliced whole wheat bread that has been dusted with the fresh home made butter, then covered with like thin dusted thin slice of whole cracked wheat, then dice the said sadwich into finger wide portions then with delicate motions promply woof down said sandwich, washing the remains down with a dose of Earl grey waters.http://www.pepysdiary.com/encyclopedia/6688/
John Evelyn on Cucumbers
"20. Cucumber, _Cucumis_; tho' very cold and moist, the most approved _Sallet_ alone, or in Composition, of all the _Vinaigrets_, to sharpen the Appetite, and cool the Liver, _&c._ if rightly prepar'd; that is, by rectifying the vulgar Mistake of altogether extracting the Juice, in which it should rather be soak'd: Nor ought it to be over _Oyl'd_, too much abating of its grateful _Acidity_, and _palling_ the Taste from a contrariety of Particles: Let them therefore be pared, and cut in thin Slices, with a _Clove_ or two of _Onion_ to correct the Crudity, macerated in the Juice, often turn'd and moderately drain'd. Others prepare them, by shaking the Slices between two Dishes, and dress them with very little _Oyl_, well beaten, and mingled with the Juice of _Limon, Orange_, or _Vinegar, Salt_ and _Pepper_. Some again, (and indeed the most approv'd) eat them as soon as they are cut, retaining their Liquor, which being exhausted (by the former Method) have nothing remaining in them to help the Concoction. Of old they boil'd the _Cucumber_, and paring off the Rind, eat them with _Oyl, Vinegar_, and _Honey_; _Sugar_ not being so well known. Lastly, the _Pulp_ in Broth is greatly refreshing, and may be mingl'd in most _Sallets_, without the least damage, contrary to the common Opinion; it not being long, since _Cucumber_, however dress'd, was thought fit to be thrown away, being accounted little better than Poyson. _Tavernier_ tells us, that in the _Levant_, if a Child cry for something to Eat, they give it a raw _Cucumber_ instead of _Bread_. The young ones may be boil'd in White-Wine. The smaller sort (known by the name of _Gerckems_) muriated with the Seeds of _Dill_, and the _Mango_ Pickle are for the Winter. "Acetaria: A Discourse of Sallets, By _JOHN EVELYN, Esq._ (1699) http://www.gutenberg.org/files/15517/15517.txt
"It is said that the antique name of cowcumber arose because the fruit was thought fit only for cows. This is somewhat curious given the fondness of the Roman emperor Tiberius for the cucumber but a certain suspicion about this fruit lingers right up to the 18th century." http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/resrch6.cfm
Parkinson Paradisi in sole 1629 London, H. Lownes and R. Young, 1629 ,famous English gardening book of the seventeenth century, lists 6 varieities: "The long greene Cowcumber, The short Cowcumber; being short, and of an equall bignesse in the body thereof, and of unequall bignesse at both ends; The long Yellow, which is yellowish from the beginning, and more yellow when it is ripe, and hath beene measured to be thirteene inches long; Another kinde is early ripe, called The French Kinde; The Dantsicke kind bareth but small fruit (used for pickles); The Muscovie kinde is the smallest of all other, yet knowne (only bearing 4 or 5 fruits per plant about the size of a small lemon."
Colonial Williamsburg, Gardening : Research : Melons and Cucumbers:http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/resrch6.cf
some more history on the English diet. xref to the musk addon http://www.pepysdiary.com/encyclopedia/1227/horticulture.tamu.edu/plntanswers/publications/vegetabletravelers/cucumber.html.HTTP://AGGIE-HORTICULTURE.TAMU.EDU/PLANTANSWERS/PUBLICATIONS/VEGETABLETRAVELERS/CUCUMBER.HTMLyanky cucumbers of virginyhttp://www.history.org/history/CWLand/resrch6.cfma nice long story on the gourd.John Parkinson lists six varieties of cucumber in Paridisi in Sol (1629)http://www.history.org/history/CWLand/resrch6.cfmcurcurbitaceaue Gourd familyhttp://encyclopedia.jrank.org/GOA_GRA/GOURD.html
"It is said that the antique name of cowcumber arose because the fruit was thought fit only for cows."
Nice story, but the true etymology is that it is derived from Old French "co(u)combre" < Latin "cucumis" < ?, and replaced the Old English "eorþæppla" (earth apples) somewhere in the 1300s. The common pronunciation up to the 18th c was "cowcumber".
cucumber"Gurka" in Swedish. Pet name for a man is sometimes "pussgurka" - "kiss-cucumber" - gourd elp us all...
"cowcumber"Folk etymology is every bit a part of a word's history as academic variety and provides a hook to a foreign words, w/out which it would not achieve common use. What is etymology at the limit of research but "folk etymology"? Besides it's more fun.
Xref: Gherkin Danzig "Gurka" in Swedish see http://www.pepysdiary.com/encyclopedia/3342/and the sad stories.http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1663/02/09/http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1661/12/01/
x ref for family connections:Gherkin http://www.pepysdiary.com/encyclopedia/3342/musky melon http://www.pepysdiary.com/encyclopedia/1227/
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