Cucumber. You are perhaps the oldest vegetable cultivated by humans, with your traces found in ancient sites older than 3,000 years. The Uruk King Gilgamesh was already praising your health benefits, more than four millenniums ago. Gourds, melons, and cantaloupes are all members of your great family. Your aroma and fragrance are so fresh and your consistency so crunchy, that any good summer salad would not be made without you. You are at the heart of the Kappamaki, one of the favorite sushis in Japan. Pickled in brine or vinegar, sometimes known as a gherkin, you accompany our cold cuts and winter dishes marvelously. But your most honorable mission, dear cucumber, happens at this time of the year in Japan, during the sacred period of O-Bon. There, you symbolize a fast horse, which the spirits of our ancestors mount to briefly visit our World. Your partner, the eggplant, symbolizing an ox, will transport them back slowly to heaven at the end of the festival. Run cucumber, run, we can’t wait for meeting our dears!
Cucumis Sativus, or cucumber, is a member of the Botanic family of the Cucurbitaceae, also called the gourd family. It is interesting to note that the Chinese, for millenniums, qualified the members of the melon family by adding the character “gua” 瓜 after the descriptive. For example, cucumber in Chinese is 黄瓜 (Huángguā), literally yellow-melon. Watermelon is called 西瓜 （Xīguā) or West-melon, etc.. Cucumber is a low-sugar fruit that is considered as a vegetable, eaten raw or pickled, sometimes baked or fried. Cucumbers are made of 90% of water and thus do not have a very nutritious content regarding calories, but they actually contain interesting nutrients. One hundred grams of cucumber provides as much as a 15-20% of daily value of Vitamin K and lots of antioxidants such as flavonoids, lignans, and triterpenes. Cucumbers have significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits and even to protect us against various forms of cancer. Cucumber juice is highly recommended to start a hot summer day.
Traditionally, slices of cucumbers were applied on the eyes to reduce their puffiness and the dark circle below them. In fact, the ascorbic acid and caffeic acid of the cucumber bring down the water retention in the eyes. Cucumber juice is also useful to tone the other parts of the skin and of course a wonderfully healthy drink. Cucumber oil is extracted from the seeds in a cold pressing process. The oil is rich in linoleic or omega-6 fatty acids, as well as vitamins B1 and C, tocopherols, and phytosterols. This oil has shown benefits to cure acne, stretch marks and eczema, reduce the effect of aging, soothe sunburns and strengthen nails and hair.
In the flavoring industry, the note of cucumber has never as prevalent as today. Consumers today are looking for very fresh tastes to soothe themselves from the fast pace of modern life. Cucumber has been named “Flavor of the Year 2017” by Firmenich. This flavor has seen a stunning demand increase of 392% during the last five years. In China, Wrigley’s chewing gums have even launched a cucumber flavor version that became rapidly a hit in this market.
So, what about the cucumber note in cosmetics and perfumery? It is also gaining momentum for sure. Lots of hand creams are scented with cucumber notes, often blended with melon or other tropical fruits, to give a fresh green touch to the product. A few fancy aroma-chemicals are behind the cucumber note, as the cucumber natural oil does not smell much. These are for example the molecule trans-2,cis-6-nonadienal or some more specialized ones such as melonal or melon heptenal. You will find a cocktail of these engineered chemicals in many of today’s green fragrances.
My picks of the week are fragrances having a distinct cucumber note such as:
For the true lovers of the cucumber note, this is The Choice, Cucumber by Demeter Fragrance Library. This is pure cucumber, only cucumber. I tried it on me and quite liked it, but am not sure if I would repeat this experience on daily basis. The longevity and sillage are very modest, but the effect is undoubtedly unique and interesting and could be used in combination with another fragrance, in a so-called layering manner. Worth a try, maybe a buy?
WallStreet by Bond No.9. This is for me the ultimate classy green fragrance, with a noticeable note of cucumber. I really love this scent which is so fresh, unique and smart. What a wonderful empowering feeling of wearing it in the morning for going to the office. You almost need to be an investment banker from WallStreet to afford it, but I must admit that I could not resist buying the 50 ml version and will probably get a refill soon again. Top notes are composed of cucumber, of course, lemon and interestingly of sea weed. The heart is made of lavender, bitter orange and caraway, and the base is very resinous, leathery and has a beautiful ambergris note. Longevity is rather good for a green scent and sillage is moderate. This is a fragrance to feel good and self-confident, rather than one for impressing others. A perfect business fragrance signed by David Apel, also creator of Bleeker Street, another jewel from Bond No 9.
The original edition of the Be Delicious series of DKNY, still on sales today, is the one with the green juice composed of a green-apple and cucumber blended note, with some grapefruit on the head, a floral heart and a discreet base made of amber, sandalwood and white musks. This is an excellent weekend fragrance for casual occasions, gym, and other sports activities, and just to feel good and fresh, and maybe even delicious? Sillage and longevity are moderate and the price tag is quite affordable. I like the bottle as well.
Huge contrast with Bond No 9 in respect of price tag, Cucumber Melon by Bath & Body Works is however a very nice splash, actually the favorite of my daughter. Key notes are Crisp Cucumber, Watery Honeydew, Summer Cantaloupe, Sparkling Grapefruit, Sheer Woods. All of this for less than twenty US dollars! The whole cosmetic line that accompanies the fragrance is superb, with a particular note to the hand cream which became one of our family’s favorite. A smart choice for summer, though with a rather high projection.
Another summer splash, by Marc Jacobs, is called Cucumber. Besides the note of our famous cucurbitaceae, we get the uncommon notes of cactus (how does a cactus smell by the way?) and the divine lotus. The heart is floral with linden, freesia and lily. Woods and musks complete nicely the subtle unisex fragrance. Out of the reviews I read, many negative comments (as usual), but mainly from people who anyway do not like cucumber as a fragrance note, so nothing to worry about if you read this article until here and like me, love this green and watery note. A nice choice as well, for soothing yourself away from the summer heat.
Thank you for reading my post guys! Time to go back to the beach with one of the juices above, unless you live Down-Under!
Have a great week!