Any of 1,100 species of echinoderms constituting the class Holothurioidea, found in all oceans, mostly in shallow water. The soft, cylindrical body is 0.75 in. (2 cm) to 6.5 ft (2 m) long and 0.4–8 in. (1–20 cm) thick. It is usually dull, dark, and often warty. The internal skeleton consists merely of numerous tiny bits in the skin. Most species have five rows of tube feet extending from mouth to anus. The 10 or more retractile tentacles surrounding the mouth are used for taking food (mud containing nutrients or small aquatic animals) or burrowing. Locomotion is sluglike. Seealso shellfish.
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Any of several leaf beetles (genus Diabrotica) that are important pests. They are greenish yellow, marked with black spots or stripes, and 0.1–0.5 in. (2.5–11 mm) long. The striped cucumber beetle and spotted cucumber beetle both feed on garden plants, and their larvae feed on the roots.
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Creeping plant (Cucumis sativus), of the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae), or its oblong fruit, for which it is widely cultivated. It probably originated in northern India. The plant is a tender annual with a rough, succulent, trailing stem and hairy leaves with pointed lobes; the stem bears branched tendrils by which the plant can suspend itself. The food value of the fruit is low, but its delicate flavour makes it a popular vegetable for salads and relishes.
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The fruit is roughly cylindrical, elongated, with tapered ends, and may be as large as 60 cm long and 10 cm in diameter. Cucumbers grown to be eaten fresh (called slicers) and those intended for pickling (called picklers) are similar. Cucumbers are mainly eaten in the unripe green form. The ripe yellow form normally becomes too bitter and sour.
Having an enclosed seed and developing from a flower, cucumbers are scientifically classified as fruits. Much like tomatoes and squash, however, their sour-bitter flavor contributes to cucumbers being perceived, prepared and eaten as vegetables. Still, "vegetable" is a purely culinary term, and there is no conflict in classifying cucumber as both a fruit and a vegetable.
Symptoms of inadequate pollination include fruit abortion and misshapen fruit. Partially pollinated flowers may develop fruit which are green and develop normally near the stem end, but pale yellow and withered at the blossom end.
Traditional varieties produce male blossoms first, then female, in about equivalent numbers. New gynoecious hybrid cultivars produce almost all female blossoms. However, since these varieties do not provide pollen, they must have interplanted a pollenizer variety and the number of beehives per unit area is increased. Insecticide applications for insect pests must be done very carefully to avoid killing off the insect pollinators.
There appears to be variability in the human olfactory response to cucumbers, with the majority of people reporting a mild, almost watery flavor or a light melon taste, while a small but vocal minority report a highly repugnant taste, some say almost perfume like. The presence of the organic compound phenylthiocarbamide is believed to cause the bitter taste.
According to Pliny the Elder (The Natural History, Book XIX, Chapter 23), the Ancient Greeks grew cucumbers, and there were different varieties in Italy, Africa, and modern-day Serbia.
Pliny the Elder describes the Italian fruit as very small, probably like a gherkin, describing it as a wild cucumber considerably smaller than the cultivated one. Pliny also describes the preparation of a medication known as “elaterium”, though some scholars believe that he refers to Cucumis silvestris asininus, a species different from the common cucumber. Pliny also writes about several other varieties of cucumber, including the Cultivated Cucumber, and remedies from the different types (9 from the cultivated, 5 from the "anguine", and 26 from the "wild". The Romans are reported to have used cucumbers to treat scorpion bites, bad eyesight, and to scare away mice. Wives wishing for children wore them around their waists. They were also carried by the midwives, and thrown away when the child was born.
In 1630, the Reverend Francis Higginson produced a book called, “New England’s Plantation”, in which, describing a garden on Conant’s Island in Boston Harbor known as “The Governor’s Garden”, he states: “The countrie aboundeth naturally with store of roots of great varietie and good to eat. Our turnips, parsnips, and carrots are here both bigger and sweeter than is ordinary to be found in England. Here are store of pompions, cowcumbers, and other things of that nature which I know not...”
William Wood also published in 1633’s New England Prospect (published in England) observations he made in 1629 in America: “The ground affords very good kitchin gardens, for Turneps, Parsnips, Carrots, Radishes, and Pompions, Muskmillons, Isquoter-squashes, coucumbars, Onyons, and whatever grows well in England grows as well there, many things being better and larger.”
In the later 1600s, a prejudice developed against uncooked vegetables and fruits. A number of articles in contemporary health publications state that uncooked plants brought on summer diseases and should be forbidden to children. The cucumber kept this vile reputation for an inordinate period of time: “fit only for consumption by cows”, which some believe is why it gained the name, “cowcumber”.
A copper etching made by Maddalena Bouchard between 1772 and 1793 shows this plant to have smaller, almost bean-shaped fruits, and small yellow flowers. The small form of the cucumber is figured in Herbals of the sixteenth century, but states, ‘if hung in a tube while in blossom, the Cucumber will grow to a most surprising length.’
Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary on September 22, 1663: “this day Sir W. Batten tells me that Mr. Newhouse is dead of eating cowcumbers, of which the other day I heard of another, I think.”
Fredric Hasselquist, in his travels in Asia Minor, Egypt, Cyprus and Palestine in the 1700s, came across the Egyptian or hairy cucumber, Cucumis chate. It is said by Hasselquist to be the “queen of cucumbers, refreshing, sweet, solid, and wholesome.” He also states that “they still form a great part of the food of the lower-class people in Egypt serving them for meat, drink and physic.” George E. Post, in Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible, states, “It is longer and more slender than the common cucumber, being often more than a foot long, and sometimes less than an inch thick, and pointed at both ends.”
According to FAO, China produced at least 60% of the global output of cucumber and gherkin in 2005, followed at a distance by Turkey, Russia, Iran and the USA.
The usual commercial method of cultivating cucumbers involves the use of mineral (manufactured) fertiliser. However, a study in 2004 in Finland by the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Kuopio (Helvi Heinonen-Tanski, Annalena Sjöblom, Helena Fabritius and Päivi Karinen) showed that pure human urine can be used as more than just a substitute. Crop yields compared favorably, and taste and microorganism content did not appear to be negatively affected. There did appear to be a slight smell when the urine was introduced, but this faded over time.
History links and bibliographic references