• 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Barese'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Brown Russian'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Burpee Bush Slicer F1'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Corinto'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'County Fair'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Crystal Apple'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Diva' AAS Winner 2002
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Double Yield'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Fanfare' AAS Winner 1994
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Garden Sweet Burpless'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Gold Standard'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Green Dragon'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Lemon'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Lisboa'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Manny'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Marketer' AAS 1943
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Ministro'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Painted Serpent'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Parade'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Parade'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Parks All Season Burpless'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Patio Snacker'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Patio Snacker'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Patio Snacker'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Patio Snacker'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • Cucumber Patio Snacker
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Pic A Little'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Rockingham'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Salad Bush' AAS Winner 1988
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Salt and Pepper'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Sir Crunch A Lot'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Slice More Green'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Socrates'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Spacemaster'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Straight Eight' AAS Winner 1935
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Supremo Hybrid'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Supremo Hybrid'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Suyo Long'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Sweet Success' AAS Winner 1983
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Sweet Success' AAS Winner 1983
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Tasty Green'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Taurus'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Taurus'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber 'White Wonder'
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • Female cucumber flower
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • Cucumber 'Pick a Bushel' F1 - AAS 2014 Regional Winner
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber - AAS 2014 Regional Winner Pick A Bushel F1
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • Cucumber Saladmore Bush F1 AAS 2014 Winner
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber - AAS 2014 Regional Winner Saladmore Bush F1
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
  • 2014: Year of the Cucumber County Fair
    The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.
 
2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Barese'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Brown Russian'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Burpee Bush Slicer F1'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Corinto'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'County Fair'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Crystal Apple'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Diva' AAS Winner 2002

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Double Yield'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Fanfare' AAS Winner 1994

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Garden Sweet Burpless'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Gold Standard'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Green Dragon'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Lemon'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Lisboa'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Manny'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Marketer' AAS 1943

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Ministro'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Painted Serpent'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Parade'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Parade'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Parks All Season Burpless'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Patio Snacker'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Patio Snacker'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Patio Snacker'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Patio Snacker'

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Cucumber Patio Snacker

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Pic A Little'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Rockingham'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Salad Bush' AAS Winner 1988

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Salt and Pepper'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Sir Crunch A Lot'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Slice More Green'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Socrates'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Spacemaster'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Straight Eight' AAS Winner 1935

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Supremo Hybrid'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Supremo Hybrid'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Suyo Long'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Sweet Success' AAS Winner 1983

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Sweet Success' AAS Winner 1983

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Tasty Green'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Taurus'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'Taurus'

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2014: Year of the Cucumber 'White Wonder'

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Female cucumber flower

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Cucumber 'Pick a Bushel' F1 - AAS 2014 Regional Winner

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2014: Year of the Cucumber - AAS 2014 Regional Winner Pick A Bushel F1

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Cucumber Saladmore Bush F1 AAS 2014 Winner

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2014: Year of the Cucumber - AAS 2014 Regional Winner Saladmore Bush F1

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2014: Year of the Cucumber County Fair

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Each year we select one annual, one perennial and one edible as our "Year of the" crops. Each is chosen because they are popular, easy-to-grow, widely adaptable, genetically diverse, and versatile. Free downloadable presentations can be found on our SlideShare account.

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2014: Year of the Cucumber

The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground...

2014: Year of the Cucumber

 

Introduction

The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. Very easy to grow from seed, cucumbers deserve praise and a place in the modern garden.

(To see a list of cucumbers that are designated AAS Winners, click here.) 

History

The cucumber is native to India, where it has been grown for almost 3000 years. Excavation at the Spirit Cave site on the Burma-Thailand frontier in 1970 uncovered seeds of cucumbers, beans, and water chestnuts that, according to radiocarbon dating, had been consumed in 9750 B.C.

Although the first wild cucumbers have never been fully identified, evidence seems to point to C. hardwickii, an unappetizingly small and very bitter native of the Himalayas. Bitterness, a plague to cucumber lovers throughout the ages, seems to be a natural protective device derived from its wild ancestors. That bitterness comes from cucurbitacins, a terpene derivative, that repels certain insects as well as some humans.

In ancient Egpyt, cucumbers were cultivated as a common food and the populace savored them dipped in brine. They also drank “cucumber water” as a weak liquor. National Garden Bureau research found one Egyptian “recipe” directed the cutting of a hole in the ripe fruit, then the stirring of the insides with a stick. The hole was then plugged and the fruit buried in the earth for several days. When dug up, “the pulp converted to an agreeable liquid.”

On the northern shores of the Mediterranean, the Greeks also cultivated cucumbers, calling them sikous (sikua, in modern Greek). However, the vegetable was not one of their favorite foods. Perhaps they viewed the cucumber as primarily water – 96% of it is. Yet it was the cucumber’s water retentive ability that earned it an undisputed reputation for never losing its cool. Early caravans often carried supplies of cucumbers to quench their thirst on long journeys.

Farther west, the Romans served cucumbers raw or boiled with oil, vinegar and honey. The Emperor Tiberius commanded cukes on his table every day. His gardeners forced hothouse cucumbers in portable containers which they moved from place to place to follow the sunlight to provide out of season for the Royal household.

Later, during the 1st Century, A.D., Roman gardeners fashioned cucumber frames and covered them with glazed, translucent panes of silicates. The mica pans diffused light and the Romans used them as we now use cold frames.

The cucumber appeared in England during the reign of Henry VIII when Catherine of Aragon demanded them for her Spanish salads. By the time Elizabeth I ascended the English throne, five distinct varieties were grown: Common, Turkish, Adder, Pear and Spanish.

Cucumbers arrived in America with Columbus. He grew them in an experimental garden in 1493. In 1539, De Soto found the cucumbers grown in Florida better than those grown in Spain. By 1806 eight varieties of cucumbers would be found growing in America’s colonial gardens.

Physicians of the 17th Century prescribed placing fever patients on a bed of cucumbers so they would become “cool, as a cucumber.” John Gerard wrote in The Herbal that cucumbers eaten three times a day in “otemeal porridge,” would heal red noses and pimples of the face. He cautioned housewives, “those cucumbers must be chosen which are green…for when they be ripe and yellow, they be unfit to be eaten.” Sound advice even now! Dr. Samuel Johnson was reviled by cucumbers and wrote ”they should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, then thrown out…”

The most famous pickled cucumber of the 19th Century was the one first preserved by H.J. Heinz of Pittsburgh. Heinz began bottling pickles in 1870 as a tasty addition to the monotonous diet of meat and potatoes eaten by most Americans. His idea was not only an instant success, it also spurred interest in cucumber hybridization.

In recent history, cucumbers were grown in space by Russian cosmonauts aboard Salut-7 during a 211 day endurance flight. Cucumbers have been cultivated successfully nearly one mile beneath the earth’s surface in an Ontario nickel mine during a food project sponsored by the Canadian government.

Proving its adaptability to many climates and cultures from native India to space flights, the cucumber grows and produces fruit in many varying conditions. Chosen by the National Garden Bureau for special recognition in 2014, the cucumber is easily grown by beginning and expert gardeners.

Nomenclature

Home gardeners refer to “cukes,” but botanists term this crunchy vegetable Cucumis sativus, a branch of the famly Cucurbitaceae. There are over 500 cousins in this extended family, including squash, pumpkin, melon and gourds. All are characterized by trailing vines with rough, hairy leaves. Cucumbers have yellow flowers that bear fruit which may be globular, oblong or cylindrical. Most cucumbers are a dark green color and have prickly skin when immature but look for the white, yellow and brown varieties also.

Classification

Cucumbers are placed in two major categories, either slicing or pickling, based on use. They can be further classified by plant habit, either bush or vining. Using the knowledge of these major categories, gardeners can choose the best type of cuke for their garden.

Slicing Cucumbers

The majority of cucumbers fit into this category. They are to be eaten fresh from the garden. The fruit are green, elongated and slightly tapered on the ends. Depending upon variety, the mature length can be 4 to 12 inches.

Additional slicing types are:

Mideastern- This type originated in Israel. It differs from other cucumbers because it is burpless and has a smoother, thinner skin. This type is also called beit alpha.

Oriental- This cucumber from Asia has a crispy, sweet taste, and thin skin with some spines. It is harvested at 10 to 12 inches and often grown on trellises so that it forms straight, high quality fruit.

Greenhouse- This group was primarily bred in Europe, specifically for forcing in greenhouses. Used by commercial greenhouse growers, they are not normally recommended for the home garden.

Pickling Cucumbers

This class is used for preserving as pickles. Most pickling varieties are versatile, usable at all stages of growth. Pick cukes at 1 inch or up to 5 inches for a large dill pickle. Some varieties can be used fresh as a slicing type.

Gherkin pickles are immature pickling cucumbers. They are small, usually only an inch or two in length. They are also known for their numerous spines and warty skin.

Other types of cucumbers include Lemon and Armenian (yard long). The Lemon is a round cuke about the size of a lemon with a cream color skin. Immature fruit are suitable for pickling; mature fruit can be sliced and eaten fresh. The Armenian cucumber is actually an elongated cantaloupe (Cucumis melo), best if cooked like a summer squash or eaten fresh when immature. It produces ribbed, pale green, white or striped fruit that, if left on the vine can grow to 3 feet. It is certainly a novelty; harvest at 1 foot for best eating quality.

Burpless, or bitter free?

Most cucumbers contain cucurbitacins which can be present in the fruit. If present in the fruit, some people consider the taste bitter. Associated with the bitter taste is a social, if not a digestive problem, known as a burp.

In the middle of this century, Oriental cucumbers were introduced to North America as burpless. The Sakata Seed Company, members of the National Garden Bureau, introduced burpless cucumbers. The fruit was longer and narrower with thinner green skin when compared to North American slicing types. Since the bitterness was associated with the burp, the new types were described as burpless and bitter free. Both terms are used to describe the same quality in cucumber varieties.

However, taste is subjective. The taste of one cucumber can easily be bitter to one person and bitter free to another. To complicate matters more, a cucumber’s taste can change. When grown under environmental stress such as high temperatures and inadequate water, a fruit can become increasingly bitter. To remove most of the bitterness, cut off the 1 inch of fruit closest to the stem and peel off the skin, if necessary. Some of the newer varieties contain a gene that eliminates all bitterness from the plant and fruit so that the fruit remains bitter free even under stress.

Sex and a Choice of Bloomers

Some plants produce two different kinds of flowers on the same plant—male and female. This is true of squash, gourds, cukes and watermelons. The sex of the flower is important since only female flowers produce the fruit. Male flowers produce pollen. You can easily recognize a female flower, because it has an ovary - looking like a tiny cucumber at its base when it blooms. Male flowers have no ovary: the flower is attached directly to a short stalk. A cucumber plant might be flowering prolifically, yet not set fruit since the flowers may be all male. Gardeners are offered a choice of the male/female flowers on cucumbers they wish to grow. The choices are monoecious and gynoecious.

Monoecious [muh-nee-shuhs] cucumbers produce male and female flowers on the same plant. All open pollinated cultivars are monoecious. Some hybrids are monoecious. The advantage to the gardener is that the pollen and the fruit producing flowers are on the same vine. The gardener can sit back and let the bees pollinate. The disadvantage is usually a later, slower production of fruit.

Gynoecious cucumbers produce predominantly all female flowers. All flowers have the potential to bear fruit. The advantage is a higher and more concentrated yield. The disadvantage is that there must be a plant nearby which produces male flowers to pollinate the female flowers. When you choose a gynoecious cucumber, there will be pollinator seeds in the seed packet. The pollinator plants produce the pollen for the “all female” plants. Remember that stress during the growing period can create gynoecious varieties to produce male flowers.

In cooler or rainy weather, bees may not be present to carry out pollination in monoecious and gynoecious cucumbers. If so, and your plant produces a female flower, simply insert a cotton swab into one of the mail flowers and twirl it around, which will coat it with pollen, then dab the pollen onto the stigma (extruding central part) of the female bloom. This will ensure its pollination.

Another solution is for a gardener to plant gynoecious cucumbers that are parthenocarpic. A parthenocarpic cucumber produces only female flowers that do not need pollen to set fruit. This results in higher yields. The plants can be grown under row covers to protect them from insects and still produce fruit. The disadvantage is that if the female flowers are pollinated, the fruit can be misshapen with a lump or curve. To minimize cross pollination, gardeners could grow only parthenocarpic plants in their garden.

Each type of cucumber has advantages and disadvantages. The choice is left for the gardener, based on his or her desired yield and use.

How to Grow

Cucumbers like to bask in the sun, so choosing a site in full sun is of prime consideration. Soil should be light, fertile and well-drained. Amending the soil with plenty of compost or well-rotted manure will ensure good yields. Check soil drainage before planting, as a soggy garden will promote disease and cut down production.

How much space is allotted to the cucumber patch depends on the variety chosen. Standard types may spread 4 to 6 feet; grow them 4 to 5 feet apart. The restricted vines of dwarf and bush varieties require much less space; some as little as 2 square feet.

Seeds should be sown when the soil has warmed up to 70°F. Sow a seed every 6 inches, pushing it into the soil to a depth of 1 inch. Cover with light soil or sand, firm well and keep moist. Seedlings should emerge in about a week. When the plants are 2 inches high, thin them to 1 foot apart. An alternative method is to plant in a series of hills 4 to 5 feet apart. A hill is simply a mound of soil 1 foot in diameter. Start by sowing four or five seeds, then thin to three per hill.

In short summer areas, gardeners may wish to get a jump on the season by starting cucumbers indoors. Plant seeds in individual peat pots or a similar container about two or three weeks before the last frost. Harden the seedlings off for several days before planting out in the garden.

Cucumbers are among the thirstiest of vegetables. The National Garden Bureau recommends long, deep waterings rather than frequent sprinklings. Mulching will repay the gardener’s efforts threefold. Moisture is conserved, soil temperature remains uniform and weed growth is deterred. Once the seedlings have grown a few inches, put down a 3 to 4 inch layer of organic mulch or cover. Cucumbers are heavy feeders. A side dressing of 5-10-10 fertilizer at the time of planting and once a month thereafter is sufficient.

Vertical Culture

It’s true that cucumbers are greedy for space, but they needn’t dominate the entire vegetable plot. They adapt well to vertical growing. Many types of support materials can be used for training cukes. A lattice, trellis or “A” frame with netting is simple to construct and easy to incorporate into a garden design. Use a structure at least 6 feet high and place it a few inches off the ground to allow for air movement. Help the young cucumber plants find the structure by placing their tendrils around the support and tying them. Continue training vines up the support as needed. Growing cucumbers vertically produces straight, blue ribbon quality cucumbers.

Container Growing

City dwellers can easily raise cucumbers on a patio, deck or in hanging baskets. The bush slicing varieties produce full-size fruits and are ideal for container gardening. Wooden tubs, half wine barrels or any large container with drainage holes can be used. The standard cultural advice still applies: lightweight soil mix, fertilizer and plenty of water. why not tuck a few cascading nasturtiums in the basket with the cucumber to provide food for the eye and palate both?

Extended Seasons

Cucumbers adapt well to growing in greenhouses and cold frames. Since they are short seasoned you can extend yours by sowing in the fall in a protected structure and enjoy fresh fruit in winter. Keep in mind you can also sow early to have cucumbers before the last frost date.

Harvest

There are three rules for harvesting cucumbers-pick, pick and pick! If mature fruit is left on the vine, the plant figures it has finished production and will stop setting new fruit. Slicers are mature when 6-8 inches long; the larger slicing varieties should be picked before they are 10 inches long. Pickling varieties are harvested in between 1-4 inches.

Most cucumbers reach maturity in 50 to 65 days. The fruit will be firm to the touch and the skin will have a uniform dark green color. To avoid damage to the vine, cut or clip the cuke from the plant rather than twisting or pulling it. Refrigerate as soon as possible for the freshest flavor.

Conclusion

Cucumbers are not only easy to grow but delicious because of the fresh, crisp and cool flesh. Enjoy the fruits of your harvest in salads and salsas, on sandwiches or made into pickles. No matter how you slice them, cucumbers are good tasting as well as good for you.

For More Information

National Garden Bureau would like to thank Patty Buskirk and Seeds By Design for providing the details for this Fact Sheet.

Please consider our NGB member companies as authoritative sources for information. Click on direct links to their websites by selecting Member Info from the menú on the left side of our home page. Gardeners looking for seed sources can use the “Shop Our Members” feature at the top of our home page.

Photos can be obtained from the NGB website in the area labeled “Image Downloads.”

National Garden Bureau would like to thank our members for providing the photos for this feature.

The cucumber fact sheet is provided as an educational service of the National Garden Bureau. There are no limitations on the use. Please credit the National Garden Bureau.