Overview

Cucumber Crop Information

Overview

  • by Todd C. Wehner
  • Department of Horticultural Science
  • North Carolina State University
  • Raleigh, NC 27695-7609

Cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) is thought to have originated in India where it is found wild and is cultivated in many diverse forms. Accessions of C. sativus var. hardwickii may be more closely related to the original ancestors of cucumber, and have been collected in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains. Secondary centers of diversity for cucumber exist in China and the Near East. Cucumber was probably domesticated in Asia, and then introduced into Europe, where the first cultivars were selected in the 1700s. Cucumbers were brought to the Americas by Christopher Columbus, and Native Americans were growing cucumbers from Florida to Canada by the early 16th century. Related species are Cucumis hystrix from China, and the African Cucumis species, such as melon (Cucumis melo), gherkin (Cucumis anguria), and their wild relatives. About 80% of the world production of cucumber is in Asia, with China being the leading producer.

Most cultivars have long vines, and are grown flat on the ground for pickling and slicing type cultivars, or on trellis supports for Oriental and greenhouse types. Plants are normally monoecious (separate staminate and pistillate flowers), but most modern cultivars are gynoecious (female) hybrid blends (12 to 15% of the seeds are a monoecious pollenizer). Plants require various insects, especially bees, to effect pollination. Cucumber is grown for its fruit, which are eaten fresh or pickled, or fried (usually when fruit have been harvested at a more mature stage). The fruit have a high water content, and they provide some vitamin A and C, especially when pickled with dill and other spices. Per capita annual consumption of fresh cucumber is 3.1 kg and processed cucumber 2.2 kg in the United States.