Cucumber (Cucumis sativus)

Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is a widely cultivated plant in the family Cucurbitaceae, originated from India. It is grown to be eaten fresh or make into pickles.

Cucumber plant is a creeping vine with tendrils, and need supporting frames, string lattices, or trellises for support. It has large leaves and bears cylindrical, elongated with tapering end edible fruit, which can grow up to 60 cm long and 10 cm in diameter. In botanical term, cucumber is a fruit, as it develops from a flower and have an enclosed seed. Just like tomatoes and squash, cucumbers is often perceived, prepared and eaten as a vegetables.

There are three main varieties of cucumber, and within these three, several cultivars have emerged. The three varieties are 'slicing', 'pickling', and 'burpless'.

Slicing cucumbers (Slicers) are grown to be eaten raw or fresh. They are cylindrical in shape, up to 35 cm long, with skins that are green to white, smooth or ridged, depending on the variety. The flesh is pale green, dense yet crunchy and aqueous at the same time. They are usually eaten in the unripe form.

Pickling cucumbers (Picklers) are cultivated to make into pickles. They are 7-10 cm long, and 2.5 cm in diameter. As compared to slicers, picklers are smaller, shorter, thicker, less regularly shaped, and have warty skins with tiny white- or black-dotted spines. Picklers are never waxed. Their color can ranged from creamy yellow to pale or dark green. One of the varieties for making into pickles is gerkins. Pickling process removes or degrade much of the nutrient content, especially vitamin C.

Burpless cucumbers are seedless cucumbers that are grown in the greenhouses. They are parthenocarpic cucumbers, 30-60 cm in length, and have thinner skins. People find this variety tastier and easier to digest than other varieties of cucumbers.

There are varieties of parthenocarpic cucumbers. Their blossoms create seedless fruits without pollination. These cucumbers are usually grown in the greenhouse where pollination by bees are excluded. Parthenocarpy (literally meaning virgin fruit) is the natural of artificially induced production of fruit without fertilization of ovules, therefore the fruit is seedless. Most cucumber varieties are seeded and require pollination.

Cucumbers consist of more than 90% of water, but are high in dietary fiber, Vitamin A and C, molybdenum, folate, silica, potassium, and magnesium. Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) and caffeic acid, prevent water retention, thus when apply topically are helpful for soothing skin irritation, burns, swollen eyes, and dermatitis. Cucumbers are said to aid digestion and constipation.

Various practices have arisen with regard to the removal of bitterness from end of cucumbers. Among the famous one, especially in India, is to slice off the end of the cucumber (where the vine once attached), sprinkling some salt, and rubbing the now-exposed ends of said cucumber with the sliced-off ends until it appears to froth, and then cut off a small frothy portion from it.

Cucumber (Cucumis sativus)Cucumber (Cucumis sativus)
Author: Stephen Ausmus (public domain)

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