We can almost always find it in Czech gardens.
We love it raw as part of various salads, but also pickled.
Yes, we are talking about a cucumber, which each of us is sure to know.
But do you know all its species?
Do you know how to store it properly?
Or how to grow it, for example, on a balcony?
We will tell you all this and much more in our article!
What exactly is a cucumber?
Cucumbers are a fruit in the same family as melons (including watermelon and cantaloupe) and squash (including zucchini and pumpkins), but most people think of them as vegetables. They grow on the sown cucumber plant and have a mild, refreshing taste and high water content. They also contain a lot of nutrients, but at the same time they are low in calories, so they are great for all kinds of diets.
Cucumbers and their effects on health
Cucumbers have several health benefits such as:
Cucumbers are mostly made up of water and also contain important electrolytes. They can help prevent dehydration in hot weather or after exercise. For people who are not fond of drinking water, adding cucumber and mint can make it taste more appealing. Staying hydrated is essential for maintaining a healthy gut, preventing constipation, avoiding kidney stones and more.
They support bone health
The vitamin K found in cucumbers helps with blood clotting and may support bone health. Cucumber also contains calcium. Vitamin K helps with its absorption, and together these nutrients contribute to good bone health.
They help with cancer prevention
As a member of the Cucurbitaceae plant family, cucumbers contain high levels of a bitter-tasting nutrient known as cucurbitacin. These help prevent cancer by preventing cancer-causing cells from reproducing.
They have anti-inflammatory effects
Cucumbers can help fight inflammation, which can lead to the development of various health problems, such as diabetes, autoimmune conditions, cardiovascular disease, depression, and cancer.
They support heart health
The fiber contained in cucumbers helps with cholesterol and thus prevents related cardiovascular problems. Cucumbers also contain potassium and magnesium. Reducing sodium intake and increasing potassium intake helps prevent high blood pressure. Cucurbitacins in cucumber also help against atherosclerosis.
They help prevent diabetes
Cucumbers can play a role in controlling and preventing diabetes. They contain substances that lower the blood sugar level or prevent it from rising too high. The cucurbitacins in cucumber help regulate the release of insulin and the metabolism of liver glycogen, a key hormone in the processing of blood sugar. One study also found that cucumber peel helped manage diabetes symptoms in mice. This may be due to the antioxidant content. The fiber in cucumbers also helps in the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes.
They improve skin health
Applying sliced cucumber directly to the skin helps to cool and soothe it, and reduce swelling and irritation. It can reduce sunburn. Putting cucumber on your eyes can help reduce puffiness in the morning.
More skin care tips:
- Toner: Blend and puree the cucumber to extract its juice. Leave on the skin for 30 minutes, then rinse. Cucumber can help you clean your pores beautifully.
- Face pack: Mix equal amounts of cucumber juice and yogurt to make a face pack that helps with dry skin and fights blackheads.
It is safe for most people to use on the skin. However, you should start by applying a small amount. If you do not experience adverse reactions, you can safely use cucumber.
Risks of eating cucumbers
There are few risks associated with eating cucumbers. One concern may be the pesticides that growers use on them. Before eating the cucumber, peel its skin or wash it in warm running water.
Cucumbers also have a natural wax on their skin. Cucumber growers remove this wax by washing the cucumber after it is picked, so they then add synthetic wax to it and send it to stores. The wax helps the cucumbers stay stable longer, but also holds the germs. The wax itself is not harmful, but it is better to peel the cucumber before eating it. However, the skin contains the most nutrients, so the best option is to buy an organic cucumber and just wash it.
Types of cucumbers
The main types of cucumbers include mainly salad cucumbers and pickled cucumbers.
They are the most common variety of cucumbers, they have a thin dark green skin and a minimum of seeds. They are best sliced and raw and not suitable for pickling. Their taste is mild and bland. You can often find them wrapped in plastic wrap in supermarkets. Perfect for cocktails, for example. There are over 30 varieties and some of them are also called snakes.
There are over 50 varieties of pickles and they are divided according to size and the presence of spines (thick and fine). They typically have warty, thin and pale green skin. They usually grow to a length of around 10 cm, and if they grow beyond this length, they are excellent for rapid lactic fermentation. That is why they are called “quick leavens”. As the name suggests, these cucumbers are mainly pickled. That’s not to say they can’t be eaten fresh, but their thin skin, crunchy texture and smaller seeds make them an ideal delicacy that tastes great when pickled.
Other types of cucumbers
There are hundreds of varieties of cucumbers of different colors (including white, yellow and orange), we will introduce you to just a few of them.
- Armenian cucumbers
They are long and twisted with a thin, dark green skin and light grooves. They are wonderfully crunchy and taste best just sliced and eaten raw. They have very soft seeds and therefore you can also consume them.
- Lemon pickles
They are yellow, round, about the size of a lemon, with pale skin. Their taste is sweet and mild, without the hint of bitterness that most cucumbers have. They have a thin skin, minimal soft seeds and are simply delicious! It is best to eat them raw and they look great in salads, for example.
- Persian cucumbers
Persian cucumbers are very similar to classic salad cucumbers in such a way that they are visually almost unrecognizable. The difference, however, is that they have a greater range of lengths – some are shorter, some are longer. They have a mild taste and a thin skin. This makes it perfect for salads or sliced for dipping. They’re also crunchy and firm enough to withstand a bit of cooking.
Japanese pickles (kyuri)
With its refreshing, delicate taste, kyuri will appeal to even the most demanding gourmets. They are thinner, with smaller seeds and a thin skin. At the same time, they are also sweeter and their inner flesh is crispy, tender and juicy. They taste best raw as part of salads, they are good for garnishing, but they are also great in soups, stews and as pickles.
- Indian cucumbers
This cucumber has white flesh with white seeds. It grows all over the world and has many different shapes. It is widely used in India, especially in curries, dhal, soups and various chutneys.
Nutritional value of cucumbers
In the following table, see a comparison of the nutritional values of 100 g of fresh salad cucumbers vs. pickled cucumbers.
|Nutritional values||Quantity in 100 g of fresh cucumbers||Quantity in 100 g of pickled cucumbers|
|Energy||14 calories||23 kcal|
|Fats||0.18 g||0.1 g|
|Carbohydrates||2 g||4 g|
|Fiber||0.93 g||1 g|
|Proteins||0.82 g||0.5 g|
Vitamins and minerals in cucumber
Also, look at the amount of minerals and vitamins that fresh salad cucumbers contain, both with and without the skin.
|Vitamins and minerals||Quantity in 100 g of salad cucumbers without skin||Quantity in 100 g of salad cucumber with peel|
|Vitamin A||4.00 mcg||5.00 mcg|
|Vitamin B1||0.031 mg||0.027 mg|
|Vitamin B2||0.025 mg||0.033 mg|
|Vitamin B3||0.037 mg||0.098 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.051 mg||0.040 mg|
|Folates||14.00 mcg||7.00 mcg|
|Vitamin C||3.2 mg||2.8 mg|
|Vitamin E||0.03 mg||0.03 mg|
|Vitamin K||7.2 mcg||16.4 mcg|
|Calcium||14.00 mg||16.00 mg|
|Copper||0.07 mg||0.04 mg|
|Fluorine||1.3 mcg||1.3 mcg|
|Iron||0.22 mg||0.28 mg|
|Magnesium||12.00 mg||13.00 mg|
|Manganese||0.073 mg||0.079 mg|
|Phosphorus||21.00 mg||24.00 mg|
|Potassium||136.00 mg||147.00 mg|
|Selenium||0.10 mcg||0.30 mcg|
|Sodium||2.00 mg||2.00 mg|
|Zinc||0.17 mg||0.20 mg|
How to choose the right cucumbers?
Look for firm cucumbers, without spots or soft spots that may indicate they have started to rot. They should be dark green without any of the yellow spots that appear when a cucumber overripes. In that case, its taste and smell will not be very good. Also, avoid those cucumbers that have wrinkles, which indicates that they have been stored too long or at higher temperatures and have lost moisture. Cucumbers always start to spoil from the tip, so check this part of the cucumber when buying.
Waxed vs. unwaxed cucumbers
Most grocery stores either wax or wrap cucumbers in plastic to retain moisture and last longer. Organic pickles must use non-synthetic waxes and only chemicals approved under organic guidelines. Unwaxed cucumbers can be found at organic food stores and farmers markets.
Cucumbers are among the fruits that have been shown to contain more pesticide residues. If you want to avoid these residues, you should buy them in organic quality.
How can we use cucumbers in the kitchen?
Most people wash the cucumbers, cut them and throw them in a salad . Before doing this, you can first soak them in salt water . This will reduce the amount of water in them and prevent the cucumbers from being watery.
Cucumbers are great not only sliced into salads or served raw, but they can also be cooked to great effect. Peel and cut the cucumbers and fry them in a piece of melted butter. Sprinkle with salt and chopped fresh herbs, if desired, for a soft, crunchy side dish, perfect for simply prepared fish.
Also try the following tips:
- Mix chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and feta cheese to create a Greek-style side dish .
- Make your water special by adding mint leaves and cucumber.
- Cut the cucumbers into thick slices and dip them in your favorite hummus.
- Blend cucumbers alone or with other vegetables such as carrots and celery to make a healthy juice. Also try one of our cucumber smoothie recipes !
- Prepare the gazpacho soup.
- Mix with garlic, mint and Greek yogurt and serve with curry.
- You can also serve sliced cucumbers with soy sauce or a light yogurt dressing.
- Prepare salsas and sauces from cucumbers. Chopped cucumber mixed with tomatoes, corn and hot peppers makes an excellent salsa for fish tacos, enchiladas verde and other spicy Mexican dishes. We also have other luxurious recipes for cucumber sauces as a main course!
Cucumbers taste great pickled. Check out our tips on how to properly preserve cucumbers in the classic way, in the oven, microwave and dishwasher.
Get inspired by our best recipes with cucumbers 5 times differently!
And as a bonus, we have a recipe for popular Znojmo cucumbers!
Ingredients per 7dcl glass:
- 1 sprig of dill
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ onion
- 2 balls of fresh pepper
- 4 peppercorns
- 3 spoons of granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons of vinegar
- 1 teaspoon blanket
- Prepare all the ingredients in washed glasses.
- Fill with washed cucumbers and fill with water.
- Let’s close well.
- Sterilize for 12-15 min.
- If you like crunchy cucumbers, sterilize for just 5 minutes and turn the hot jars upside down.
- Let them cool like this.
How are cucumbers stored?
Storage in the refrigerator
Remove the cucumbers from any plastic wrap that may cause them to ripen faster and follow these steps:
- Rinse fresh cucumbers with cold water and pat dry.
- Wrap individual whole cucumbers in paper towels so that they absorb the water released by the cucumber and do not soften.
- Place the wrapped cucumbers in a zip lock bag or an airtight container to keep them from drying out.
- Be sure to separate cucumbers from fruits like apples, which release ethylene gas that speeds up the ripening process of other surrounding fruits and vegetables.
- Storing cucumbers below 10 degrees Celsius can cause frost damage such as mushy spots and faster spoilage. So store them in the warmest part of the fridge towards the front.
- This will last you about 2 weeks before they start to soften.
You should never put cucumbers in the freezer because they will turn brown and gelatinous.
Storage at room temperature
Cucumbers will last up to a week at room temperature if protected from direct sunlight.
Storage of sliced cucumbers
If you cut the cucumber, refrigerate and use within two to three days. Place the cut cucumber slices in an airtight container with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture.
Choice of variety
One of the first steps in growing cucumbers is choosing a variety. You can decide whether to grow pickles, fine-spined or coarse-spined, which may sting when harvested, but on the other hand, are more durable. Or you prefer to choose salad cucumbers that are grown in a greenhouse, but there are also varieties that you can grow without one.
What soil do cucumbers need?
Choose a location with direct sun. Cucumbers need warmth and lots of light. Cucumbers also require fertile soil. Before planting, add about 5 cm of aged manure and/or compost to the bed and work it in to a depth of 15 to 20 cm. The soil should be moist but well-drained (not soggy) and warm.
The soil should be neutral or slightly acidic with a pH of around 6.5 to 7.0.
There are two methods you can use to plant cucumber seeds: direct seeding or pre-growing seedlings.
Preparation of seedlings
You don’t need to do anything special to prepare the seedlings for planting, you can sow them directly from the package. However, soaking them in warm water for 12-24 hours beforehand can help them germinate faster. You can also pre-grow seedlings yourself by sowing cucumber seeds in plastic or paper pots with a diameter of about 6 to 9 centimetres. It is important that the flowerpots have a hole at the bottom for the drainage of excess water. Put the substrate for germination and propagation in the pots and put one seed in each. Cucumbers need about 15 to 18 degrees Celsius for germination, and after a month you will have plants suitable for planting.
Planting cucumbers straight from seed
Plant cucumber seeds directly in your garden a week or two after the last frost, as soon as the soil warms to 15°C or more in the spring. It is also important whether you will plant cucumbers directly on the flower bed, in which case do it only in the second half of May, or in the greenhouse, which is a suitable time for this at the end of April. Make a shallow furrow in the pre-prepared soil with a hoe and pour water into it. Let it soak in and then insert the seeds one by one at a distance of approx. 3 to 4 cm. Cover the seeds with a light layer of dry soil. Seeds sown in this way should emerge after about a week.
Caring for cucumbers
- When the seedlings appear, start watering often . The main requirement for the care of cucumbers is consistent watering! They need at least 2.5cm of water per week (or more if temperatures are particularly hot). Inconsistent watering leads to their bitter taste.
- Water slowly in the morning or early afternoon and avoid wetting the leaves, as this can promote foliar diseases that can kill the plant.
- Fertilize the plants with liquid cucumber fertilizer . Apply 1 week after the plant begins to flower and then every 3 weeks, directly into the soil around the plants. Or you can incorporate granular fertilizer into the soil. Do not over-fertilize, the fruits will be stunted.
- Collect fruits regularly. Pick the fruits when they are still young. Older fruit will not taste as sweet. The best time to harvest is early morning. Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the fruit off the plant.
Growing cucumbers on the balcony
You can grow both pickled cucumbers and salad cucumbers on a sunny balcony protected from the wind. Even a novice gardener can have a successful harvest of cucumbers. Start by choosing compact, low-growing cucumber varieties suitable for growing in containers. The principles are basically the same as when growing in a flower bed. Plant the cucumbers in a nutrient-rich growing medium and place them in a pot. However, keep in mind that the depth of the soil should be at least 20 cm. Fertilize the cucumbers with a suitable fertilizer and water them twice a day (morning and evening) with water that you will have in a watering can standing on the balcony for at least 2 days.
Growing cucumbers in a greenhouse
Do not keep cucumbers in the same greenhouse together with tomatoes, because they do not get along very well. It is also important to maintain high humidity in the greenhouse and to water the plants often. Use a liquid fertilizer on the plants every two weeks to give them enough nutrients. It is best to choose vertical cultivation for growing cucumbers in a greenhouse.
Growing cucumbers on a net
This is the vertical cultivation of pickled cucumbers, in which the plant is not allowed to lie on the ground, but stretches along the mesh of the net. The main goal of this method is to save space effectively. Other advantages are in particular:
- More efficient harvesting – cucumbers are at eye level, so they are easier to see and easier to pick
- Effective protection against pests – cucumbers are above the ground, so they are far from pests
- Straighter fruits – the fruits hang and do not lie on the ground
- Uniform fruit color – no parts of the fruit remain sitting on the soil
- Less fruit loss (due to soil diseases)
- Higher yield – cucumbers grow in narrower rows
- Less curved fruits
Female and male flowers grow on cucumber plants. The embryo of the future fruit can be seen on the female flowers even before they bloom. When in full bloom, only a scar can be seen in the middle of the female flower, while in the male flower the stamens with the anther are rich in pollen. Fruits arise from female flowers after good pollination.
Diseases and pests of cucumbers
See the following table for the most common diseases and pests that can affect your cucumbers and how to deal with them.
|Cucumber mold||Light green to yellow-green spots bordered by veins. After rain, you can see a dark gray coating of mold on the underside of the leaves.||Buying pickled cucumber seeds that are treated against this fungus. You can also use various biological preparations.|
|Fallen cucumber||White spots and then coatings form on the leaves. The plants turn yellow, dry up and then die.||Purchase of organic preparations that increase the resistance of the plant.|
|Bacterial spotting of cucumbers||Angular spots to holes on the leaves. From the bottom of the leaves you can see drops of slime, which forms a white coating when dry.||Use the same preparations as in the case of cucumber fungus.|
|Cotton aphid||The leaves are curled and yellow.||Rinse them with a stream of standing water, or use a spray with soap. There are also preparations on the market against these pests.|
|Hop mite||Black balls and cobwebs on the underside of the leaves. The upper part of the leaves has yellow spots and the leaves gradually dry up.||Increase humidity in the greenhouse and reduce temperatures by regular ventilation. Also choose resistant varieties of cucumbers. In flowerbeds, collect infected leaves in a bag so that they do not fall to the ground, from where the mite could spread further.|
|Greenhouse whitefly||Leaves attacked by whiteflies turn black after a while.||Disinfect the greenhouse and wash the cucumber leaves with water. You can then use yellow glue boards to catch whiteflies.|
History of cucumbers and interesting facts
Cucumber first appeared in ancient India more than 4000 years ago . Around 2-3 millennia BC, the Indian civilization managed to domesticate the cucumber and introduced it into their cuisine. In the 1st millennium BC, they then began to trade with the civilization of the Middle East and Europe. The cucumber is also mentioned in the legends of ancient Ur and the sagas of Gilgamesh . Later, the Greek civilization adopted cucumbers and started calling them sikyon. At that time, cucumbers also reached Turkey, Bulgaria, Africa, today’s Serbia and Italy .
The Roman Empire was where cucumbers were adopted by the nobility and the lower classes. Cucumbers then remained popular in Italy for several centuries. In addition to food, they were also used in medicinal preparations. The most famous example of the fascination with cucumbers in ancient Rome is known from the reign of Emperor Tiberius , who required eating a cucumber every day of the year.
After the fall of Rome, cucumbers receded from popularity for a long time. They reappeared at the court of Charlemagne in the 8th and 9th centuries and arrived in England in the 14th century. The first interaction with the English population was not successful, but cucumbers returned there in the middle of the 17th century, when they managed to take hold.
Christopher Columbus brought cucumbers to Haiti in 1494, where they were cultivated by Spanish settlers and distributed throughout the New World. During the 16th century, European hunters in North America introduced cucumbers to Native Americans in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains. These tribes quickly understood the potential of cucumbers and incorporated them into their fields.
During the 18th century, the expansion of cucumbers in North America came to an abrupt halt when several medical journals began to state that cucumbers and all similar vegetables that were not cooked posed a serious health risk. This misconception was disproved only in the 19th century.
In 2010, global production of cucumbers was 57.5 million tons , with most of the world’s production and exports located in China (40.7 million tons).