My Cucumber Comes from Holland: The Reasons Will Amaze You

Cucumber with labelThe cucumber I recently bought at my local Edmonton Safeway comes from Holland.  I was amazed to realize this.  Lots of my “fresh” produce comes from the USA and Mexico, and sometimes from various other South American countries, but Holland?  That is new to me.  And, it doesn’t make sense.

How can cucumber travel all the way from Holland and still be fresh? Do they fly it in?  I don’t think so because I don’t see container trucks driving in and out of the airport. Maybe there are secret airports just for groceries hidden away in industrial areas so we don’t see the trucks.

Perhaps the cucumbers travel the 5,000 km across the Pacific in speedboats and then are trucked 3,000 km overland to Edmonton in racing cars. Even with refrigerated boats and trucks, I don’t think the average cucumber would survive the journey.

The only other way they could get to me is by train. There are some mighty long freight trains in Canada, and I know this because I have waited up to twenty minutes for one of them to cross the road, so that may be the secret of the cucumbers’ intercontinental Grand Tour. Next time I’m waiting at a level crossing, I’m going to blame cucumbers.

But aside from the logistics of getting a cucumber to me from Holland, why would you even want to try? We can grow cucumbers in Canada most of the year, and even in winter we have grow-ops for all sorts of things besides marijuana.  If those are not big enough to meet the need, we have a huge neighbour to the south with lots of sunshine. They often provide us with cucumbers. What happened to the cucumber market that made it economically feasible to ship them in from Europe?

My niece in Edinburgh, Scotland tells me that British apples, if she can find them at her grocery store, cost twice as much as the apples that come from South Africa or New Zealand.  That’s 10,000 or 18,000 km away, folks. Nope. It just doesn’t make sense.

So, here’s what I think.  I think that our governments all secretly want to go to war with every other country in the world and the only way they can stop this from happening is by creating mutually beneficial trade agreements.  Scotland manages to restrain itself from sending thousands of kilted warriors to South Africa and New Zealand because they get their apples at a crazy cheap rate. So long as the apples are cheap, they stay home and drink whiskey instead of waving their claymores about.

In the same way, Canada would really love to fight it out with the Dutch, mukluk to clog, but we decided to settle for cheap cucumbers instead. Now we stay home eating our poutine and reminiscing about the days when we were lumberjacks and we were OK.

Yeah. That must be it.  We are holding ourselves back from mutually assured destruction by shipping perishable produce around the world at reduced rates. It’s a kind of dietary arranged marriage; it’s not what either party really wants, but it keeps the peace.

It also creates jobs in transportation for thousands of speed boat captains, race car drivers, and freight train engineers. You can’t argue with that.


  1. You can argue with that in terms of the ridiculous carbon footprint and the obvious amount of slave labour at the fruit picking end of the market. I’m lucky in that I have found an affordable fruit and veg co operative that provides most of my families fresh produce essentials sourced from local farms. I am now voting with my feet and my pounds by NOT buying Tesco fruit. It’s outrageous.
    Scotland is indeed too busy drinking whiskey and too peaceful to be bothered to go to war with anyone. We’re currently campaigning to get rid of Trident, the nuclear station in Scottish waters, but Westminster still has its hold after the narrowly failed independence vote.
    Global trading is great in some senses. It’s nice to have bananas and pineapples. But apples! We grow so many varieties here on our doorstep, and probably send them all abroad. Crazy!

    • Hi Laura. I, too, like pineapples and bananas and I eat lots of imported foods and spices. I just don’t understand importing things that we produce ourselves. I’m going to try much harder to buy foods that create a smaller carbon footprint in future.

      Maybe I’ll buy more Scotch whiskey, though!

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