Known scientifically as Cucumis sativus, cucumbers are related to watermelons, zucchini and pumpkins. Cucumbers grow on vines that sprawl along the ground. They usually grow to around 9 to 12 inches long and are cylindrical in shape. Hothouse grown cucumbers come in a seedless variety and can grow to 20 inches in length.
There are two types of cucumbers: slicing cucumbers, which are eaten fresh, and pickling cucumbers. Cucumbers are also known as gherkins when they are pickled.
Long green slicing cucumbers come in several varieties:
- Burpless are so named because they are easier to digest. They mature in 62 days and are a hybrid of the Chinese cucumber which train well on a trellis.
- Marketmore 76 mature to a dark shiny green in 68 days.
- Straight 8 are the most popular for their dark green, plump and straighter shape.
Recent hybrids have been developed that cluster on the vine. They are:
- Bush Crop which take 55 days to harvest. They grow in clusters of 6-8 inch fruit on dwarf, bushy plants instead of trellis vines.
- Fanfare are a popular hybrid that will mature in 63 days and are known for their great taste. They are bred to be a high yield, extended harvest, disease resistant cucumber plant.
- Salad Bush is another award winning hybrid that is ready for picking in 57 days. It produces uniform 8 inch fruit on compact plants and is quite disease tolerant as well.
Pickling cucumbers are smaller than slicing ones. Both the Bush and the Carolina varieties are ready to harvest in about 48 days. The Carolina has a white spine and is more blocky in shape.
Plant cucumber seeds about 1/2 inch deep in rows every 12 inches, or three per 36 inches in a hill system style. If you grow them indoors then transplant them, make sure the soil is warm. Cucumbers have shallow roots so they need to be irrigated regularly during their growth cycle. Compost or well rotted manure mixed in with the soil will be beneficial.
Once the plants begin to vine, side dress them with a nitrate fertilizer for a greater crop yield. If you live in a windy area, wire cages can be used to train the vines. Try not to harvest them when wet.
Cucumber Nutritional Content
One medium sized slicing cucumber
Vitamin C 5.5 mcg
Molybdenum 5.6 mcg
Vitamin A 223.60 UI
Folate 13.52 mcg
Magnesium 11.44 mg
Fiber 0.83 g
Cucumber Health Benefits
Because cucumbers, like watermelons, are 95% water, they keep the body hydrated and help regulate the body’s inner temperature. They also help the body flush out toxins.
Leave the skin on. The skin contains a good amount of vitamin C, about 10% of the daily recommended allowance. If you do like your cucumbers peeled, the skin can be used to relieve sunburn and mild skin irritations, similar to aloe vera. There is some research indications that cucumbers can stimulate hair growth. Herbalists recommend cucumber juice to reduce puffiness around the eyes and to calm down acne.
Cucumbers can either relieve acid indigestion and heartburn or cause it, depending on the individual. They are a good source of dietary fiber.
Because it is rich in potassium and magnesium, it may help to lower blood pressure. Studies by DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) show eating cucumbers can help lower blood pressure by 5.5 points in some hypertension prone individuals when coupled with a diet of low starch and lean proteins.
Other studies have shown that cucumbers, when eaten regularly, help to regulate uric acid, so it is great for prevention of certain kidney or bladder stones.
Want to learn more about the health benefits of cucumbers?