The Sensitive History and Bitter End of the Cucumber

The Sensitive History and Bitter End of the Cucumber

What fruit or vegetable are you most like? It’s a great ice-breaker for that awkward first date or soiree. And? If people look at you like you’re crazy, you can cross them off the list for your next gardening party.

I’d like to think I was a hearty vegetable, with my love for the unknown and unexpected in life, for traveling off the beaten path.  But researching the growing needs of the long, cylindrical fruit of the Cucumis sativus, I found myself thinking: I am one sensitive cucumber.  I, too, require regulated temperatures, too cold, and I won’t flourish (or leave the house), too hot I wither.  Too much stress?  I too become bitter.

That’s right, your summer cukes might not be the refreshing addition to your salad if you allow them to get stressed out in the garden, and the level of bitterness depends on the severity of the stress.  And just like us introverts, they definitely need their space: If the leaves start to turn yellow, give them more nitrogen by giving them more room to breathe. Organic Gardening suggests you grow trellised plants 8 to 12 inches apart, and hills with one or two seedlings should be spaced about 3 feet apart, with rows 4 to 5 feet apart.

Like tomatoes and squash, while cucumbers are most often treated as a vegetable, due to having an enclosed seed and developing from a flower, cucumbers are classified as accessory fruits. Native to India, cucumbers have a long, flavorful history; even the legend of Gilgamesh, one of the earliest surviving works of literature, describes people eating cucumbers.  From India they made their way to Greece and Italy, and later into China, who is one of the world’s greatest producer of the crop.

When they’ve been raised healthy and happy, cucumbers are your best beauty friend. We all know to slap them on puffy eyes, and Positive Health Wellness states that the fruit has powerful antioxidants and flavinoids that are thought to reduce irritation.  90% water, they help keep us hydrated on those extra-hot days when we might grow a bit bitter. They’re a good source of B vitamins, and the dark green skin contains vitamin C.  While they may seem like delicate flowers that demand careful conditions, they do their fair share of hard work around the house.

Do you have experience raising happy cucumbers?  Tell us in the comments or over at @TheCityFarm.

(Photo Credit: Vegetable Gardner)