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Cucumbers are a vegetable, more specifically a fruit vegetable that belongs to the gourd family (bot.: Cucurbitaceae). The first cultivation of cucumbers is unclear. While some sources state that it has been cultivated as long as 4000 years ago in the Southern part of the Himalayas, others think that cucumbers have their origin in Africa. They state that cucumbers came to the Southern Europe via Egypt. They were introduced to Northern Europe in the 19. Century. England was the first country to cultivate cucumbers in greenhouses. Today cucumbers are cultivated around the world. Since they need warm temperatures, some countries depend on greenhouse cultures. Even temperatures slightly above the freezing point restrain the growth of the thermophilic plant.

The largest producing country is China, Russia and Japan follow as second and third. In Europe Spain, Greece, the Netherlands, Canary Islands, Italy, France and Germany are the most important producing countries. From the botanical point of view the cucumber is a fruit vegetable with fleshy berry fruits. It does not tolerate frost and is an annual, herbaceous plant with creeping or climbing vines. Its fruits may be as heavy as 1.5 kg. They are usually eaten unripe, when they are still green. The colour of ripe cucumbers ranges from white to yellow, orange-yellow and yellow-brown. The surface of young fruits often shows prickly warts, which disappear in older fruits. English cucumbers are the most popular variety worldwide. They are mostly straight and very even, are often shrink-wrapped in foil because this way they stay fresh for much longer.

A smaller variety of the cucumber is only 15 cm long and weighs no more than 250 grams. It is sold as mini seedless cucumber or Persian cucumber. It is very aromatic and gets more popular every year. Lebanese cucumbers are small, smooth and mild. They have a thin skin and are almost seedless. They are popular in Australia and New Zealand. Ridge cucumbers are shorter cucumber varieties with a tougher skin. They may be grown in cooler climates. In some countries like Germany similar varieties are used for cooking. Japanese cucumbers are smaller than English cucumbers and have a dark green, bumpy skin. They have a strong, fresh cucumber taste.

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