Cucumber: All About This Plant That Originates From South Asia

Cucumber belongs to the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae), and it’s a creeping plant commonly grown for its edible fruit. Cucumber’s nutritional benefits are pretty low, but its delicate taste makes it a perfect addition to salads and desserts. If you live in a cold climate, you can plant them in frames or trellises and place them inside a greenhouse. But if you live in a warmer area, you can even grow it in your outside garden.

Cucumber is a small annual with a trailing, rough, succulent stem. The hairy leaves have three to five raised lobes, and the stem carries branched tendrils to support the plant. The five-petalled yellow flowers are unisexual and generate a form of pepo berry.

Common NameCucumber
Botanical NameCucumis Sativus
Plant TypeAn Annual
Size (Fully Grown)Vining Cucumbers Can Easily Grow 4 – 6 Feet (1,22 – 1,83 Meters) Of The Ground
Sun ExposurePrefers Full Sun But Partial Shade Is Okay
Soil TypeSandy, Loamy, Well-drained, Fertile Soil
Soil pHFrom 6.5 To 7.0
Flower ColorYellow
Hardiness Zones4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, And 11
Native AreaIndia

How Many Cucumber Varieties Are There?

Many civilizations have embraced cucumber in their kitchens due to this plant’s worldwide spread, so we are fortunate to have over 100 varieties. The most popular types are described below, and they include:

  1. Diva
  2. Alibi
  3. Ashley
  4. Lemon
  5. Liberty
  6. Eureka
  7. English
  8. Muncher
  9. Wautoma
  10. Armenian
  11. Double Yield
  12. Straight Eight
  13. Sweet Success
  14. Boothby Blondes
  15. Green Fingers Persian

Origins And History Of The Cucumber Plant

As we already discussed, cucumber belongs to the Cucurbitaceae gourd family, and people realized its potential when it first appeared in ancient India. After that significant moment that happened more than 4000 years ago, the plant spread from India to Ancient Greece, Rome, Europe, and China, eventually becoming one of the world’s most-produced vegetables.

This journey was filled with many ups and downs because, and sometimes, they were seen as essential parts of societies’ foods and sometimes seen as disease bringers.

Early Indian culture managed to domesticate the plant and begin infusing it into their rich cuisine about 2-3 millennia BC. As time passed, people’s industrial skills grew, and they began trading with the Middle Eastern world and Europe in the 1st millennia BC. Subsequently, the Greek civilization happily welcomed the cucumbers and began to name them “síkyon” (σίκυον). By then, this fruit also entered Turkey, Bulgaria, Africa, modern-day Serbia, and Italy.

The Roman Empire was where both royalty and the lower class accepted the cucumbers as a part of their daily cuisine. Cucumbers receded from prominence for long periods after the fall of Rome. They reappeared on Charlemagne’s court in the 8th and 9th centuries and came to England in the 14th century.

The English population’s first contact with this excellent plant was unsuccessful, but thankfully in the mid-17th century, cucumbers returned there, and they succeeded in taking their place as an essential edible.

The age of discovery was a crucial time in distributing cucumber all around the world. Christopher Columbus introduced cucumbers in Haiti during his voyage in 1494, where Spanish settlers planted them and spread them further throughout the country.

When Did Cucumbers Come To North America?

In North America, European trappers introduced cucumbers to the native Indians in the Great Plains region and the Rocky Mountains during the 16th century. Those tribes soon realized the quality and nutritional value of this plant and started to grow them in their lands.

The spread of cucumbers across North America suddenly stopped during the 18th century. The reason for this is because some medical journals began claiming that they and other related vegetables that were not cooked posed a significant health danger. Discouraged by such misunderstandings, the consumption of this excellent plant plunged across the globe but restored in the 19th century.

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How To Recognize Cucumber?

Cucumber is a small annual with a trailing, rough, succulent stem. The hairy leaves have three to five raised lobes, and the stem carries branched tendrils to support the plant. The five-petalled yellow flowers are unisexual and generate a form of pepo berry. You can read the description of the plant parts from the paragraphs below:

Leaves

Cucumber is a widespread vine with big leaves and curly tendrils. The plant could have 4 or 5 main stems from which the tendrils evolve. The plant leaves are arranged alternately on the branches, with 3–7 pointed lobes, and they are hairy.

I think that almost every gardener has heard about the vine type cucumber, but you might be surprised to know that there are also ones that grow like bushes! These cucumbers are excellent for people who have small gardens or want to grow their plants in containers.

Flowers

Cucumbers have different male and female flowers on the same plant, like tomatoes, melons, and many other plants. The male flowers are identifiable because they do not have a tiny fruit behind them. And, the female flower has a small fruit behind the flora right before they open.

Fruit

Cucumber is commonly considered a vegetable due to the way it is used in the culinary world. But, remember that botanically speaking, cucumber is a fruit since it emerges from flowers and contains seeds. The fruits differ in shape, but they usually look like a curved cylinder rounded on both sides. Cucumbers can also reach a diameter of 4 inches (about 10 cm) and a length of even 24 inches (about 60 cm).

The Best Growing Conditions For Cucumber

Here are the best growing conditions for cucumber, so if your home garden has these “features,” I recommend you to grow this excellent plant!

The Optimal Temperature

Cucumbers are quite tender vegetables, and they need a temperature of 70°F (about 21°C) or warmer to grow well. The plants thrive in zones 4–12, where they grow exceptionally well. If you’re okay with the sprawling vines on your garden/yard, try to remember that you’ll need about a 9 square feet (a bit less than 1 m²) area for one plant.

The Type Of Soil And Amount Of Sun

While growing in loose sandy loam soil, cucumbers perform best, but the ground needs to drain well and be fertile. They also love sunlight, so keep in mind to plant them in a sunny spot. For example, in colder climates, a greenhouse is an excellent place for growing this remarkable plant.

Also, since the roots can grow to a depth of 3 to 4 feet (about 0,91 to 1,22 meters), don’t grow them near trees! In the worst-case scenario, trees will “steal” nutrients and water from your precious cucumbers.

Water And Fertilizer Requirements

Cucumbers are very active plants and often need 1 to 2 inches (about 2,5 to 5 cm) of water each week, depending on the climate and the soil conditions. The trick is to keep the soil still moderately wet. Water just once or twice a week deeply — and more often, when you’re growing in sandy soil.

High-quality manure is the perfect fertilizer to give your cucumbers’ the much-needed nutrients because compost usually contains only 2 percent nitrogen, and it releases it gradually. By the way, compost reserves the precious nutrients in the soil for a long time, so your plants will get the right amount of nutrients at the right time.

Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Cucumbers?

If you have a common medical condition or are developing a new life inside you, we listed the cucumber’s safety information. You can also find out the pet-friendliness info below.

Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women

Because cucumbers are rich in nutrients and famous for increasing fertility while enhancing women’s conception rates, they are a great addition to the diet of a woman who is either pregnant or breastfeeding a baby.

Children

Most doctors recommend that you continue breastfeeding your baby until he/she is at least one year old, and then you can introduce food to him/her. But when your baby is about six to eight months old, you can add cucumber to your child’s diet, but only after consulting with your baby’s doctor, of course!

People With Allergies

Cucumber is an excellent plant, but you can be allergic to it also. If you already have problems with plants like banana, watermelon, artichoke, bell pepper, cantaloupe, honeydew, sunflower seeds (or sunflower oil), or zucchini, be cautious with cucumber!

People With Diabetes

According to a report published in the journal Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, people with type 2 diabetes could lower their blood sugar levels by eating cucumber. This tasty plant can help people with diabetes because it contains a lot of fiber, and fiber helps lower high blood sugar levels.

Pets

Thankfully, they are entirely safe for pets to eat. Low-calorie cucumbers are also a delicious snack that many pets enjoy.

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