A famous type of gourd that is widely cultivated is the cucumber. It is a creeping vine that roots in the ground and grows up on supporting frames and have thing and spiraling tendrils. It has large leaves which form a kind of canopy over the fruit.

A cucumber plant
A cucumber plant

A cucumber is cylindrical in shape, and is elongated with tapered ends. It can be as large as 60 cm long, and 10cm in diameter. Cucumbers that are grown to be eaten fresh are called slicers, and those which are created for pickling are called picklers. However, they are pretty similar. Either way, cucumbers are usually eaten in its unripened green form. If it is ripe, it turns yellow and becomes rather bitter and sour. They are also famous for being over 90% comprised of water.

Although some people may think that cucumbers are vegetables, botanically speaking, they are classified as fruits. This is because it has an enclosed seed and develops from a flower like tomatoes and squash.

There are several varieties of cucumbers which are parthenocarpic, meaning that they blossom and create seedless fruit without the need for pollination. In fact, pollination for these varieties actually degrades the quality. In the USA, they are grown in greenhouses and in Europe and some other regions, they are grown outdoors in areas that bees are excluded from. However, most cucumber varieties do need pollination. There are thousands of honey bees that are carried to the cucumber fields before they bloom, especially for this purpose.

In terms of taste, there are a few general responses that people make in regards to cucumbers. Most people say that cucumbers taste quite watery or have a light and mild lemon taste. However, some people would say that it is really disgusting, and some say it is like perfume. The reason for the bitter taste is the presence of phenylthiocarbamide. For those who are trying to get rid of the bitter taste, there are several practices to do this. One practice is to slice off the ends of the cucumber, sprinkle salt, and rub the exposed ends of the cucumber with the sliced ends until the cucumber beins to froth.

Sliced cucumber
Sliced cucumber

Cucmbers that are pickled have a distinctive flavour and a longer shelf life as opposed to when it is in its organic form. The cucumbers are never waxed, and the cucumbers used for pickling are generally thicker, shorter, and have bumpy skin. During the pickling process, most nutrients are removed.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation, China produces 60% of the global output of both cucumbers and gherkins in 2005. This was followed by Turkey, Russia, Iran, and the USA. However, cucumbers actually originated from India. It has been cultivated in Western Asia for 3000 years, and was most likely introduced to Europe by the Roman Empire. It is listed amonst the foods eaten by the ancient Ur, and a legend called Gilgamesh actually notes that people ate cucumbers. Some alsosay that it was produced in the ancient state of Thrace (now modern Bulgaria and Turkey). From India, it spread to Greece, Italy, and then China. According to Pliny the Elder, the Ancient Greeks grew cucumbers and there were already different varieties in modern-day Serbia, Italy, and Africa.

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