Cucumber
Cucumbers grow on vines
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Cucurbitales
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Genus: Cucumis
Binomial name
Cucumis sativus
L.

Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is a widely cultivated plant in the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae. It is a creeping vine that bears fruits that are used as vegetables. There are three main varieties of cucumber: slicing, pickling, and seedless. Within these varieties, several cultivars have been created.

The cucumber is originally from South Asia, but now grows on most continents. Many different types of cucumber are traded on the global market. In 2014, world production of cucumbers and gherkins was 75 million tonnes, led by China with 76% of the total. In 2009, an international team of researchers announced they had sequenced the cucumber genome.

Description

The cucumber is a creeping vine that roots in the ground and grows up trellises or other supporting frames, wrapping around supports with thin, spiraling tendrils. The plant may also root in a soilless medium and will sprawl along the ground if it does not have supports. The vine has large leaves that form a canopy over the fruits.

The fruit of typical cucumber is roughly cylindrical, but elongated with tapered ends, and may be as large as 60 centimeters (24 in) long and 10 centimeters (3.9 in) in diameter. Much like tomato and squash, it is often perceived, prepared and eaten as a vegetable. Cucumber fruits consist of 95% water.

Depending on variety, cucumbers may have a mild melon aroma and flavor.

Flowering and pollination

Most cucumbers are seeded and require pollination. Thousands of hives of honey bees are annually carried to cucumber fields just before bloom for this purpose. Traditional cucumbers produce male blossoms first, then female, in about equivalent numbers.

Nutrition

In a 100-gram serving, raw cucumber (with peel) is 95% water and supplies low content of essential nutrients, as it is notable only for vitamin K at 16% of the Daily Value.

Varieties

Kurkkuja
Slicing cucumbers

In general cultivation, cucumbers are classified into three main cultivar groups: "slicing", "pickling", and "burpless".

Slicing

Cucumbers grown to eat fresh are called slicing cucumbers. The main varieties of slicers mature on vines with large leaves that provide shading. They are mainly eaten in the unripe green form, since the ripe yellow form normally becomes bitter and sour. Slicers grown commercially for the North American market are generally longer, smoother, more uniform in color, and have a much tougher skin. Slicers in other countries are smaller and have a thinner, more delicate skin. Smaller slicing cucumbers can also be pickled.

Pickling

PicklingCucumbers
Pickling cucumbers

When pickled for flavor and longer shelf-life, cucumbers are called "gherkins" (mainly in the United Kingdom, UK) or "pickle" (in the United States and Canada). Although any cucumber can be pickled, commercial pickles are made from cucumbers specially bred for uniformity of length.

Burpless

Persiancucumber
Isfahan burpless cucumber

Burpless cucumbers are sweeter and have a thinner skin than other varieties of cucumber, and are reputed to be easy to digest and to have a pleasant taste. They can grow as long as 2 feet (0.61 m). They are nearly seedless, and have a delicate skin. Most commonly grown in greenhouses, these cucumbers are often found in grocery markets, shrink-wrapped in plastic. They are sometimes marketed as seedless or burpless, because the seeds and skin of other varieties of cucumbers are said to give some people gas.

Several other types of cucumbers are sold commercially :

  • Lebanese cucumbers are small, smooth-skinned and mild, yet with a distinct flavor and aroma.
  • East Asian cucumbers are mild, slender, deep green, and have a bumpy, ridged skin.
  • Persian cucumber, which are mini, seedless, and slightly sweet, are available from Canada during the summer, and all year-round in the US.
  • Beit Alpha cucumbers are small, sweet cucumbers adapted to the dry climate of the Middle East.
  • Apple cucumbers are short, round cucumbers grown in New Zealand and parts of Europe, thy have a light yellow-green color and mildly sweet flavor.
  • Schälgurken are eaten in Germany. Their thick skins are peeled and then they braised or fried, often with minced meat or dill.
  • Dosakai is a cucumber available in India. These fruits are generally round in shape. It is also grown and available through farms in Central California.
  • Kekiri is a smooth skinned cucumber, relatively hard, and not used for salads. It is cooked as spicy curry. It is found in dry zone of Sri Lanka. It becomes orange colored when the fruit is matured.
  • In May 2008, British supermarket chain Sainsbury's unveiled the 'c-thru-cumber', a thin-skinned variety that reportedly does not require peeling.

Cultivation history

The cucumber originated in India, where a great many varieties have been observed. It has been cultivated for at least 3,000 years, and was probably introduced to other parts of Europe by the Greeks or Romans. Records of cucumber cultivation appear in France in the 9th century, England in the 14th century, and in North America by the mid-16th century.

Images


Cucumber for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.