By Brittany Arthur
Cucumber (Cucumis sativus)
A plant in the gourd family that grows in a typically cylindrical shape that is elongated and rounds off at the ends. The fruit has a tough outer rind with a softer interior and are usually more than 90% water. The fruit grows from vines that spiral and creep up objects that can support it. Large leaves burgeon from the vines and create a canopy of shade for the growing fruit. Like most fruit, before the produce is surfaced, a small flowering bud grows. Cucumber blossoms are typically yellow in color. These yellow blooms are either male or female, the female blooms must be pollinated to produce the fruit.
Cucumber is used almost exclusively for culinary purposes. It can be added to a plethora of dishes or be eaten plain. The plant has been noted to have a slightly bitter taste with a watery, light melon aroma. It is most commonly sliced or cubed for dishes or pickled. Pickled cucumbers are given a stronger taste as well as a longer shelf life.
The cucumber is originally from South Asia and has been cultivated for over three thousand years. They thrive when the weather is hot and water is plentiful. Cucumbers are picked from their vines after a long growing season of about 50-70 days. Using garden shears or pruners when harvesting cucumbers will prevent injury to the vine.