In these dog days of summer it’s a pretty good idea to carry around a bottle of water or sports drink to stay safe from heat stroke. However, in China, home of the melt-proof ice pop, people are into a much more low tech way to keep cool.
One of our reporters was standing at a traffic signal in Shanghai when he spotted an attractive businesswoman rummaging through her purse. Finding what she was looking for, she pulled out a huge cucumber and started munching on it as nonchalantly as one would drink a cup of coffee from Starbuck’s. Mildly aroused, he decided to investigate this spontaneous act more deeply.
Taken aback by seeing such a thing in a cosmopolitan economic hub like Shanghai, the reporter gradually started to notice that this wasn’t an isolated incident. People everywhere, young and old, we pulling cucumbers out of their bags and eating them in public places. Does everyone in China carry a cucumber? Are there that many cucumbers available?
A group of tourists from a rural part deep inside China confirmed. “All Chinese people eat cucumbers,” one of them remarked as many in the group were nibbling on their lengthy green gourds. Surely she can’t mean “everyone” literally, but it seems a lot of people are into the habit.
When talking to a Japanese woman who works at an amusement center she confirmed, “Cucumbers are rampant in the summer. People carry them around in their bags and pull them out just like taking a drink from a plastic water bottle. A lot of people are out selling them too since they know cucumbers sell well.”
Since cucumbers are 90% water many people think they are low in nutrition, but they do have a healthy balance of vitamins and minerals. The reason for this phenomenon is it’s widely believed that cucumber has a cooling effect on the body and can actually combat the onset of heat stroke. In contrast to this belief, cucumbers are actually diuretics which may lead to dehydration.
It seems like a pretty good alternative to bottled drinks. Healthy and natural they are healthy for the body as well as the environment avoiding any non-biodegradable waste. The woman at the amusement center disagrees though.
“Sure they’re good to eat, but people are eating them everywhere! Indoors or outdoors, they eat them and then toss the ends and skin of the cucumbers on the ground. This place is smelling more and more like a farmer’s market. It’s a big problem” she lamented showing her growing frustration over China’s love of cucumbers.
The belief that cucumbers combat heat stroke goes back about 4000 years, and littering is probably much older. Just because something has been around a long time doesn’t make it good. Although in defense of the cucumber eaters; I could think of a lot worse things to see lying on the street than vegetables.
[ Read in Japanese ]