Also known as
Gherkin, Khira, Cornichons
Photo by dug-m (All rights reserved)
This plant has a mild fragrance
More images of Cucumber
Cucumis sativus are commonly known as Cucumbers. They are a salad vegetable from the gourd family and grow in two forms: vining or bush. Vines scramble along the ground or climb up trellises or other supporting frames, wrap around supports with thin spiraling tendrils, while bush types form a more compact plant. Generally, vining cucumbers yield more fruit throughout the growing season, while bush selections are especially suited to containers and small gardens. The plant has large leaves that form a canopy over the fruit, which is roughly cylindrical, elongated with tapered ends, that can grow up to 60 cm long and 10 cm in diameter. Having an enclosed seed and developing from a flower, botanically speaking, cucumbers are classified as pepoes, a type of botanical berry. Much like tomatoes and squash they are often also perceived, prepared and eaten as vegetables. Cucumbers are usually more than 90% water. There are many different cultivars, hybrids and types of cucumber available producing fruit used in a range of ways. Pickling Cucumbers are frequently called Gherkins, however a true gherkin is the fruit of another species Cucumis anguria. The name Cornichons is used by the French to refer to any small cucumber. Slicing cumbers, such as the Burpless cultivars are used fresh and tend to have green skin. European or Greenhouse cucumbers are cultivars which have been developed to be seedless and grow best indoors. Asian cucumbers tend to be heavily ribbed, remain thin but get to between 30 to 61cm long. Lemon cucumbers are small round heirloom cucumbers best eaten as soon as they turn yellow.
Common problems with Cucumber
Leaves may wilt in the heat of the day if the roots can not access water as fast as the plant is taking it up. If they are still wilted in the am the soil is too dry and needs additional watering ASAP. Inconsistent watering can cause the fruit to become odd shaped and bitter tasting.
How to harvest Cucumber
Pick cucumbers when they are green, firm, slightly crispy and a good size. Pickling and slicing cucumbers will keep in a fridge for seven to ten days. Wrap in plastic or place inside a zipper bag to help keep them crisp. Greenhouse/hothouse cucumbers will only keep in the fridge for 1 to 2 days before turning soft. Make sure the temperature is not too cold as to freeze the fruit. Onced pickled, cucumbers (gherkins) can be stored for a year.
How to propagate Cucumber
Sow seeds roughly 6 weeks (Mid Feb to March) before transplanting by placing the seeds on their sides, approximately 1cm deep in individual pots or module trays. Keep undercover and maintain heat at 21C (70F) Germination should occur within 7-10 days Seeds can be sown in a cold greenhouse from late April onwards.
Special features of Cucumber
Cucumbers produce separate female and male yellow flowers. The male flowers will appear first on long thin stems, Female flowers are smaller with the start of a cucumber shaped fruit at the base of the flower. Most cucumber plants are Monoecious - producing both male and female flowers, however some hybrids are gynoecious - only producing female flowers and will need to be grown near a monoecious plant for pollination and fruit set to occur.
Can be grown both indoors and outdoors. Tomato and Cucumbers require different levels of humidity and may not produce the best yields if grown in the same location.
Other uses of Cucumber
The fruits and flowers are edible and are usually consumed fresh in salads or grated and mixed with greek yoghurt to make tsatsiki.
Edibles to Sow Outdoors in May
If the soil is warm enough, sow direct into prepared beds.
Edible to Sow Under Cover in May
Successional sow small batches on a sunny windowsill or in a heated propagator, ready to plant out later in the month.