Kingdom : Plantae
(unranked) : Angiosperms
(unranked) : Eudicots
(unranked) : Rosids
Order : Cucurbitales
Family : Cucurbitaceae
Genus : Cucumis
Species : C. sativus
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 has large leaves that form a canopy over the fruit. The fruit of the cucumber is roughly cylindrical, elongated with tapered ends, and may be as large as 60
centimeters (24 in) long and 10 centimeters (3.9 in) in diameter. Having an enclosed seed and developing from a flower, botanically speaking, cucumbers are classified as fruits. However, much like tomatoes and squash they are often perceived, prepared and eaten as vegetables. Cucumbers are usually more than 90% water.
Next to tomatoes, cabbage, and onions, cucumbers are the fourth most widely cultivated vegetable in the world. They are enjoyed on virtually all continents and you will find them being incorporated into all types of cuisine.
Cucumbers are scientifically known as Cucumis sativus and belong to the same botanical family as melons (including watermelon and cantaloupe) and squashes (including summer squash, winter squash, zucchini and
pumpkin). Commercial production of cucumbers is usually divided into two types. "Slicing cucumbers" are produced for fresh consumption. "Pickling cucumbers" are produced for eventual processing into pickles. Slicing cucumbers are usually larger and have thicker skins, while pickling cucumbers are usually smaller and have thinner skins.
Cucumber is one of the major additive in green salads. Cucumber is also beneficial & videly used for face pack & eye packs for various beauty treatments.
Cucumbers originated in India. Large genetic variety of cucumber has been observed in different parts of India. It has been cultivated for at least 3,000 years in Western Asia, and was probably introduced to other
parts of Europe by the 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.
Evidence indicates the cucumber has been cultivated in Western Asia for 3,000 years. It is also listed among the foods of ancient Ur, and the legend of Gilgamesh describes people eating cucumbers. Some sources also
state it was produced in ancient Thrace, and it is certainly part of modern cuisine in Bulgaria and Turkey, parts of which make up that ancient state. From India, it spread to Greece (where it was called “σίκυον”, síkyon) and Italy (where the Romans were especially fond of the crop), and later into China.
According to Pliny the Elder (The Natural History, Book XIX, Chapter 23), the Ancient Greeks grew cucumbers, and there were different varieties in Italy, Africa, and modern-day Serbia.
Most cucumbers are monoecius and produce both male and female(fruit bearing) flowers. Gynoecious types bear only female flowers, therefore a few male-flowering pollinators are included in the seed packets. Both types require pollination by bees. Parthenocarpic types produce few if any seeds and
require no pollination(develop without seeds), so they can be grown to maturity under row covers. Bitter-free are resistant to damage from cucumber beetles. Dwarfs are good candidates for intercropping with tomatoes and peppers, but they must have a constant water supply. All types must be picked daily in warm weather. American slicing cucumbers are the oblong, dark green cucumbers commonly found in supermarkets.
Pickling cucumbers bear smaller fruits with bumpy, slightly wrinkled rinds that make them naturally crisp and firm. Asian cucumbers are long and slender, with small seed cavities, grow these trellised for strait fruit. Greenhouse cucumber varieties produce self fertile flowers, so you can grow many varieties under row covers or in high tunnels without insect access typically needed for pollination.
Since cucumbers are susceptible to many virus diseases and wilts, the selection of modern disease-resistant varieties is highly recommended.
The following show resistance to all or many cucumber maladies:
All female(gynecious) varieties:
West India Gherkin;
Lemon (fruit size and color of a lemon);
China or Kyoto (an extra long cucumber.)
In human cultivation, the varieties of cucumbers are classified into three main varieties: "slicing", "pickling", and "burpless".
Cucumbers which are grown to be eaten fresh are called slicing cucumbers. They are mainly eaten in the unripe, green form. The ripe, yellow form normally becomes too bitter and sour. These cucumbers can also
be harvested for pickling when they are smaller. Slicers grown commercially 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.
Cucumbers can be pickled for flavor and longer shelf-life. Although any cucumber can be pickled, commercial pickles are made from cucumbers specially bred for uniformity of length-to-diameter ratio and lack of voids in the flesh. Those cucumbers intended for pickling, called picklers, grow to about 7 centimeters (2.8 in) to 10 centimeters (3.9 in) long and 2.5 centimeters (0.98 in) wide. As compared to slicers, picklers
tend to be shorter, thicker, less regularly shaped, and have bumpy skin with tiny white- or black-dotted spines. Color can vary from creamy yellow to pale or dark green. Pickling cucumbers are sometimes sold fresh as “Kirby” or “Liberty” cucumbers. The pickling process removes or degrades much of the nutrient content, especially that of vitamin C. Pickled cucumbers are soaked in brine or a combination of vinegar and brine, although not vinegar alone, often along with various spices.
Some varieties of cucumber are marketed as burpless, because the seeds and skin of other varieties of cucumbers are said to give some people gas. The burpless variety is reputed to be easy to digest and have a pleasant taste. They can grow as long as 2 feet (0.61 m). They are nearly seedless, and have a delicate skin which is pleasant to eat. Most commonly grown in greenhouses, these parthenocarpic cucumbers are often found in grocery markets, shrink-wrapped in plastic.
Several varietals exist and are sold commercially:
Lebanese cucumbers are small, smooth-skinned and mild. Like the English cucumber, Lebanese cucumbers are nearly seedless.
East Asian cucumbers are mild, slender, deep green, and have a bumpy, ridged skin. They can be used for slicing, salads, pickling, etc., and are available year-round. They are usually burpless as well.
Armenian cucumbers (also known as yard long) have very long, ribbed fruit with a thin skin that does not require peeling, but are actually an immature melon. This is the variety sold in Middle Eastern markets as "pickled wild cucumber". In North America, the term “wild cucumber” refers to manroot.
Persian cucumber, better known as mini seedless cucumbers, are available from Canada during the summer, and all year-round from the Dominican. Its popularity is increasing 30 to 40% a year. Easy to
cut, it is on average 5-8 in. long. Vines are parthenocarpic, requiring no pollinators for fruit set.
Beit Alpha cucumbers are small, sweet parthenocarpic cucumbers adapted to the dry climate of the Middle East.
Apple cucumbers are short, round cucumbers grown in New Zealand and parts of Europe, known for their light yellow-green color and mildly sweet flavor. When mature, the fruit may grow tiny spines, and contains numerous edible green seeds. The fruit is usually eaten raw, with skin.
Dosakai is a yellow cucumber available in parts of India. These fruits are generally spherical in shape. It is commonly cooked as curry, added in sambar or soup, daal and also in making dosa-aavakaaya (Indian pickle) and chutney; 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 which reportedly does not require peeling.
Soil for Growing Cucumbers:
The usual commercial method of cultivating cucumbers involves the use of mineral (manufactured) fertilizer.
Fertile clay soil supports good cucumber growth if it is enriched with well-rotted manure and compost to aid its water-retentive qualities.
Germination in 7-10 days
When: Warm soil (65 degrees) is necessary for cucumbers to take hold. The plants are very susceptible to frost. Where there is a very short growing season, cucumbers can be planted in peat pots indoors a month to 6 weeks before planting outdoors. Cucumbers do not take readily to transplanting, and should be handled so that their roots are not disturbed. If necessary, transplant seedlings on a cloudy day or in the afternoon to minimize transplanting shock. If there is ample garden space, the vines can be allowed to sprawl over the ground. Use a mulch, black plastic, straw or salt hay to keep the fruit clean. For small gardens, plan on training them to a trellis or support of some kind. This not only keeps the fruit clean and off the ground for quick ripening, but enables the fruit to grown straighter.
Where there is ample space and vines can sprawl, the simplest way is to plant cucumbers in hills, with several plants placed together. Space hills 4 feet apart each way and plant about 8 seeds per hill. Thin to the 3 strongest plants when the seedlings are about 4 inches high. Since cucumbers grow along rapidly once started, the ground should be prepared well in advance. Work a deep planting hole where each hill will be. Add a spade full of well-rotted manure, and a generous handful of 5-10-10 or bone meal and rock potash. Work in well and cover with soil before planting the seeds about an inch deep. The same soil preparation works well if the vines are to be trained on a support or grown in patio tubs.
How Cucumber Grows:
Once started, the cucumber vine grows along quite rapidly, putting out hairy stems with large, attractive leaves. The vines produce tendrils and can be trained to climb readily. The male (pollen-bearing) flowers will
appear on the plant first, but do not produce fruit. A week or so later the female flowers appear, and produce the oval, elongated cucumber. The modern gynoecious (all-female) varieties are popular because they start bearing as soon as the first flowers appear. Seed packets contain enough of the good male pollen carrier to assure proper fertilization of these newer varieties.
Cucumbers self regulate how many fruits they can carry at one time. In order to maximize production, harvest fruits as soon as they reach picking size. Pick daily, because under ideal conditions, cucumber fruits can double in size in just one day.
Once cucumbers start growing they must have a constant supply of soil moisture. If it is lacking, the plants stop growth in a "holding position" until there is more soil moisture. It is therefore important to grow
cucumbers near a water supply. Keep weeds down with shallow cultivation or by growing the vines on black plastic mulch. Or mulch rows heavily with straw, salt hay, grass clippings, or partially rotted compost. When the plants are about 4 inches high, add a high-nitrogen fertilizer such as blood meal or cottonseed meal, or water the plants with fish emulsion. Avoid stepping on vines as they develop.
To save seeds from open pollinated varieties, allow perfect fruits to ripen on the vine until they develop leathery yellow or brown rinds. Slice away the rinds without cutting into the seeds, and place in a pail of water and mash with your hands. After two days discard the floating seeds, and remove the seeds accumulated on the bottom of the pail. Spread them out on newspaper or paper plates and allow them to dry at room temperature for two weeks before storing the largest ones in a cool dry place. Cucumber seeds should remain viable for up to 5 years.
- Striped cucumber beetle (East Coast). Spotted cucumber beetle (West Coast): This is essentially the same pest, which changes its coat depending on which coast it chooses. Adults overwinter on garden debris, so good fall cleanup is the first step in control.
Yellow sticky traps can also be used for cucumber beetles, but be aware they will also trap beneficial insects. In large plantings, perimeter trap crops of "Blue Hubbard" winter squash can be effective control strategy, as this is one of their favorite plants. Nearby plantings of barrage may also suppress cucumber beetle populations.
- Squash bug - Handpick adults and leaves bearing eggs. If boards are placed between rows in the evening, these insects will hide under them and can be destroyed in the early morning by uncovering and killing them.
- Vine borers - These pests are usually not seen until the damage is done. Good fall cleanup to destroy
overwintering eggs is important.
A pickled cucumber (commonly known as a pickle in Australia, Canada, and the United States or generically as gherkins in the UK) is a cucumber that has been pickled in a brine, vinegar, or other solution and left to ferment for a period of time, by either immersing the cucumbers in an acidic solution or through souring by lacto-fermentation.
A gherkin is not only a pickle of a certain size but also a particular species of cucumber: the West Indian or Burr Gherkin (Cucumis anguria), which produces a somewhat smaller fruit than the garden cucumber (Cucumis sativus). Standard pickles are made from the Burr Gherkin, but the term gherkin has become loosely used as any small cucumber pickled in a vinegar brine, regardless of the variety of cucumber used.
Cornichons are tart French pickles made from small gherkins pickled in vinegar and tarragon. They traditionally accompany pâtés.
Brined pickles are prepared using the traditional process of natural fermentation in a brine which makes them grow sour. The brine concentration can vary between 20 g/litre to more than 40 g/litre of salt. There is no vinegar used in the brine of naturally fermented pickled cucumbers.
The fermentation process is entirely dependent on the naturally occurring Lactobacillus bacteria that normally cover the skin of a growing cucumber. Since these are routinely removed during commercial harvesting/packing processes, traditionally prepared pickles can only be made from freshly harvested cucumbers, unless the bacteria are artificially replaced.
Typically, small cucumbers are placed in a glass or ceramic vessel or a wooden barrel, together with a variety of spices. Among those traditionally used in many recipes are garlic, horseradish, whole dill stems with umbels
and green seeds, white mustard seeds, grape, oak, cherry, blackcurrant and bay laurel leaves, dried allspice fruits, and—most importantly—salt. The container is then filled with cooled, boiled water and kept under a non-airtight cover (often cloth tied on with string or a rubber band) for several weeks, depending on taste and external temperature. Traditionally stones, also sterilized by boiling, are placed on top of the cucumbers to keep them under the water. The more salt is added the more sour the cucumbers become.
Since they are produced without vinegar, a film of bacteria forms on the top, but this does not indicate they have spoiled,and the film is simply removed. They do not, however, keep as long as cucumbers pickled with
vinegar, and usually must be refrigerated. Some commercial manufacturers add vinegar as a preservative.
Kosher dill (US)
A "kosher" dill pickle is not necessarily kosher in the sense that it has been prepared under rabbinical supervision. Rather, it is a pickle made in the traditional manner of Jewish New York City pickle makers, with generous addition of garlic and dill weed to a natural salt brine.
Whereas in Germany and Poland dill pickles have been prepared for hundreds of years, in the US at least one New York restaurant was serving dill pickles in the nineteenth century.
In New York terminology, a "full-sour" kosher dill is one that has fully fermented, while a "half-sour," given a shorter stay in the brine, is still crisp and bright green. Elsewhere, these pickles may sometimes be termed "old' and "new" dills.
The Polish-style pickled cucumber (Polish: ogórek kiszony/kwaszony; slang: kiszeniak) is a variety developed in the northern parts of Europe. It has been exported worldwide and is found in the cuisines of many countries. It is sour, similar to kosher dills, but tends to be seasoned differently. It is usually preserved in wooden barrels. A cucumber only pickled for a few days is different in taste (less sour) than one pickled for a longer time and is called ogórek małosolny, which literally means 'little salt cucumber'. This distinction is similar to the one between half- and full-sour types of kosher dills (see above).
Another kind of pickled cucumber, popular in Poland, is ogórek konserwowy ('preserved cucumber') which is rather sweet and vinegary in taste, due to different composition of the preserving solution. It is kept in jars instead of barrels or cans.
In Hungary, while regular vinegar-pickled cucumbers (Hungarian: savanyú uborka) are made during most of the year, during the summer kovászos uborka ("leavened pickles") are made without the use of vinegar. Cucumbers are placed in a glass vessel along with spices (usually dill and garlic), water and salt. Additionally, a slice or two of bread are placed at the top and bottom of the solution, and the container is left to sit in the sun for a few days so the yeast in the bread can help cause a fermentation process.
Lime pickles are soaked in lime rather than in a salt brine. This is done more to enhance texture (by making them crisper) rather than as a preservative. The lime is then rinsed off the pickles. Vinegar and sugar are often added after the 24-hour soak in lime, along with pickling spices.
Bread and butter
Bread-and-butter pickles are sweeter in flavor than dill pickles, having a high concentration of sugar or other sweetener added to the brine. Rather than being served alongside a sandwich, they are more often used in fully flavored sandwiches, such as hamburgers, or used in potato salad. Cucumbers to be made into bread and butters are often sliced before pickling.
Swedish and Danish
Swedish pickled cucumbers (pressgurka) are thinly sliced, mixed with salt and pressed to drain some water from the cucumber slices. Afterwards placed in a jar with a sour-sweet brine of vinegar, sugar, dill and mustard seeds.
Danish cucumber salad (agurkesalat) is similar, but the cucumbers are not pressed and the brine doesn't have parsley. The cucumber salad accompanies meat dishes, especially a roasted chicken dish (gammeldags kylling med agurkesalat), and is used on Danish hot dogs.
Kool-Aid pickles or "koolickles", enjoyed by children in parts of the Southern United States, are created by soaking dill pickles in a mixture of Kool-Aid and pickle brine.
Like pickled vegetables such as sauerkraut, sour pickled cucumbers (technically a fruit) are low in calories. They also contain a moderate amount of vitamin K, specifically in the form of K1. One sour pickled cucumber "spear" offers 12–16 µg, or approximately 15–20%, of the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin K. It also offers three kilocalories, most of which come from carbohydrate. However, most sour pickled cucumbers are also high in sodium; one spear can contain 350–500 mg, or 15–20% of the American recommended daily limit of 2400 mg.
Sweet pickled cucumbers, including bread-and-butter pickles, are higher in calories due to their sugar content; one large gherkin may contain 20-30 calories. However, sweet pickled cucumbers also tend to contain significantly less sodium than sour pickles.
In the United States, pickles are often served as a side dish accompanying meals. This often takes the form of a "pickle spear", which is a pickled cucumber cut length-wise into quarters or sixths. Pickles may be used as a
condiment on a hamburger or other sandwich (usually in slice form), or on a sausage or hot dog in chopped form as pickle relish.Soured cucumbers are commonly used in a variety of dishes—for example, pickle-stuffed meatloaf, potato salad or chicken salad—or consumed alone as an appetizer.
Pickles are sometimes served alone as festival foods, often on a stick. This is also done in Japan, where it is referred to as "stick pickle" .
The term pickle is derived from the Dutch word pekel, meaning brine. In the U.S. and Canada, the word pickle alone almost always refers to a pickled cucumber (other types of pickles will be described as "pickled onion," "pickled beets," etc.). In the UK pickle generally refers to ploughman's pickle, such as Branston pickle, traditionally served with a Ploughman's lunch.