How to seed cucumber?

Vegetable Seed Production: Cucumber

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Botany

Soil Nutrition

Optimum growth of cucumbers requires soils with high organic matter and a pH of 6.5 or above. The organic matter is often supplied by green manure crops that are turned under before they reach maturity and become woody. It is difficult to provide a specific fertilization recommendation because of the diversity of soils on which cucumbers successfully grow. However, a fertilization regime of 1-2-2 is suitable before planting under non-irrigated conditions. Under irrigated conditions, the ratio should be 2-1-1 with half of the nitrogen applied a month after emergence to to replace that lost from leaching.

Isolation

Pollination

Cucurbits require that pollen move from staminate to pistillate flowers or from the anthers to the stigma of perfect flowers. Honey bees are the msot reliable and cost-effective way to achieve pollination. One to two hives per acre are introduced when 5 to 10 percent of the plants have open flowers. If hives are placed in weedy areas or close to other flowering crops, the number of hives per acre should be increased. Hives should be placed in clusters around the periphery of fields, with additional hives placed inside of larger fields.

F1 hybrids dominate the market for most commerical cucurbit crops due to their greater vigor, higher yield, and greater uniformity than open-pollinated varieties. In addition, since parent lines are proprietary and seed cannot be propagated for a second generation from hybrid seed, seed company investments in varietal research and development are more secure.

Hybrid seed production is common for cucumbers and summer squashes and represents the bulk of seed produced for these crops. In hybrid cucumber production, genetic manipulation is used to grow plants having only female flowers (gynoecious plants). These plants will be hybrid “mother plants.” Adjacent rows are planted with normal genotypes to provide pollen, and bees transfer the pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers.

Planting

The time of planting is delayed until the danger of frost is over. Because of the irregular, flat seed shape, most cucumber seed is coated so that precision planting can be accomplished. Direct seeding using drills into rows that are 91 to 122 cm (3 to 4 feet) apart at a rate of nine seeds per meter (three seeds per foot) is practiced. After emergence, the seedlings are thinned by cutting (pulling creates injury to the developing roots of the plant to be retained) to one plant per foot. When the initial vegetative leader stem has produced three to five leaves, it is removed by pinching to encourage growth of the remaining two lateral stems and their fruits. This results in the development of four or five fruits per parent plant.


Female rows are to the left and right, the center row is male.

Irrigation

Cucumbers require high levels of water during vigorous vegetative and reproductive growth. Even in areas where rainfall is plentiful, periodic droughts substantially reduce yields and irrigation is necessary in these instances. While furrow irrigation is preferred, when overhead irrigation is used, it should be applied early in the day to permit the vegetation to dry out prior to nightfall and thereby minimize fruit rooting and foliar diseases.

Roguing

Diseases

Insect Pests

  • Downy mildew
  • Bacterial wilt
  • Anthracnose
  • Root knot
  • Angular leaf spot (Pseudomonas lachrymans)
  • Cucumber mosaic virus
  • Scab (Cladosporium cucumerinum)
  • Cucumber beetles
  • Aphids
  • Spider mites

Seed Harvest

Fruit maturity affects seed quality in cucumber. For maximum seed quality, cucumber fruits must reach full maturity. This is signaled by a change in color from green to yellow and by a withering of the fruit stalk. Fruits can also be examined to determine seed maturity. Seeds that separate easily from the flesh of a sliced cucumber fruit are ready for harvest. At this stage, the fruits are typically harvested by hand and carried to a central seed extraction, drying, and storage facility for stock seed or small seed lots. For commercial seed, the plants are windrowed and then machine harvested. The slurry is augered into steel bins and then taken to the plant for seed extraction.


Rotating screen separates seeds and fruit material. Seeds are collected in bin on harvester, fruit material passes out the back of the machine.

Cucumber fruit material after passing through the harvester.

Seed extraction is accomplished by natural fermentation or acid treatment. In the former process, fruits are first sliced and macerated and the surrounding pulp, juice, and seeds allowed to ferment for about 4 to 6 days under normal field conditions. In the latter process, commercial hydrochloric acid (3 fluid ounces) or sulfuric acid (1 fluid ounce) added to and stirred with 11.3 kg (25 pounds) of the sliced, macerated fruit tissue. After 15 to 30 minutes, water is added to the mixture and the mature seeds sink to the bottom while the digested pulp floats to the top.

Whether fermentation or acid extraction is used, the seeds must be immediately washed to preserve seed quality. This is done by collecting the seeds on screens and adding the seeds to water troughs with riffles as described for tomato seeds. The remaining pulp material and acid float off while the cleaned seeds are retained on the riffles.

Cleaning

After extraction, the seeds are immediately dried. This is done either in the sun with frequent stirring and turning of the seed or with artificial batch driers that have a rotary paddle to expose the seed to heated air. The initial drying temperature should not exceed 40°C (104°F) and the seed should be dried until it reaches a moisture content of 6% prior to cleaning and storage.

Cucumber seeds may still contain slight amounts of fruit debris following drying. This can be removed by an air-screen machine. Light and immature seeds can be separated from mature seeds on a gravity table.

Cucumber seeds stored at 6.5% moisture content under proper temperature and relative humidity conditions can remain viable for 5 to 7 years.

Seed Yield

Seed Identification:

Scientific Name: Cucumis sativus
Common Name: Cucumber
Family: Cucurbitacea
Weight: 28 – 50 seeds/gram

Note: 1 row in above image = 1 mm

Slicing

Dasher II

Very dark green hybrid with good disease resistance. Vigorously produces white-spined fruit in 55 days, great-tasting cucumbers that are about 8.5 inches long.

Dasher II, 15 Seeds

Best grown on a fence or trellis for easy harvest, seeds for this variety are available from Amazon.

Sweet Success

Burpless hybrid that produces 12- to 14-inch seedless, thin-skinned fruit. Mild, sweet taste. Fifty-four days to maturity.

Sweet Success, 15 Seeds

Should be staked or grown on trellis. AAS winner. Get these seeds now on Amazon.

Salad Bush

Bush-type, compact plant bred for containers. Dark green, 8-inch cucumbers. Disease resistant, and ready in 57 days.

Salad Bush Cucumber, 25 Seeds

AAS winner. Seeds for Salad Bush are available from Amazon.

Straight Eight

Straight, 8-inch fruits with fine-grained flesh and great taste. High yield in home gardens. 65 days to maturity.

Organic Straight Eight, 30 Seeds

An heirloom with long trailing vines that appreciate support. AAS winner in 1935.

Straight Eight seeds are available from Amazon.

Spacemaster 80

Short, 3-foot vines produce 7- to 8-inch cukes in 60 days.

Spacemaster 80 Seeds

Good for containers. Crisp, non-bitter fruit.

Get these seeds from Mountain Valley Seed Co.

Burpless #26 Hybrid

Grows up to 12 inches long, but best if picked at 8 or 10 inches.

Burpless #26 Hybrid Seeds

Mature in 50 days. High yield over long season.

This variety is available from Mountain Valley Seed Co.

Pickling

Calypso

Developed in North Carolina, but does well broadly. One-by-three-inch blocky fruit.

Calypso F1 Hybrid Pickling

Dark green with minimal white spine. Matures in 52 days.

Available on Amazon from Stonysoil Seed Company.

Little Leaf H-19

Medium length fruit, 3 inches to 5 inches in length.

H-19 Little Leaf, 50 Organic Seeds

Smaller than normal leaves improve visibility for harvesting.

Organic seeds are available on Amazon from David’s Garden Seeds.

National Pickling

Produces large yields of 6-inch crispy and tender-skinned cucumbers.

National Pickling, 50 Seeds

Good for dill pickles. Vines are vigorous and medium-length.

Seed and Plant sells National Pickling seeds that are available on Amazon.

Selections for Zones 1-4

Our northernmost friends will likely have the best luck with these types.

Marketmore 76

Popular strain in northern regions for its productivity and resistance to disease.

Marketmore 76 Seeds

Slender, straight, 8- to 9-inches. Matures in 67 days.

Buy these seeds today from Mountain Valley Seed Co.

Diva

Semi-glossy, thin-skinned, and 6 to 8 inches long.

Diva Seeds

Matures in 58 days, and is resistant to many common cucumber diseases. Sweet taste. AAS winner.

Mountain Valley Seed Co. carries Diva seeds.

Fanfare

Slim, 8- to 9-inch, uniform fruits. Excellent texture and flavor and resistant to disease.

Fanfare Seeds

Short, 2- to 2 1/2-foot vines produce high yield. Uniform green with no yellow bellies, this hybrid matures in about 63 days. AAS winner.

Get Fanfare seeds from Mountain Valley Seed Co.

Orient Express II

These are the type you’ll often find wrapped in plastic wrap at the grocery store.

Orient Express II Seeds

Ten to 14 inches, slim, and burpless, this hybrid takes about 64 days to harvest. Five-foot vines require trellising.

Find these seeds now on Amazon.

Sweet Slice

Ten- to 12-inch fruits are burpless, crisp, and sweet.

Sweet Slice, 25 Seeds

Ready for harvest in 55-62 days, this hybrid variety produces over a long season. Thin, tender, and dark green skins.

Seeds for this variety are available on Amazon.

Wisconsin SMR58

This crisp, sweet pickler is a heavy producer that matures in 55 days.

30+ Organic Wisconsin SMR-58 Seeds

A dual-duty variety, it can also be eaten right off the vine.

Organic Wisconsin SMR58 seeds are available on Amazon.

Eureka

Bush pickler with small seed cavity and good resistance to disease.

Eureka, 15 Seeds

Works well as a slicer, too, if picked at 7 inches. 57 days to harvest.

Eureka seeds are available on Amazon.

Homemade Pickles

Vigorous 5-foot vines offer excellent disease resistance.

Homemade Pickles, 50 Organic Seeds

Harvest when small for baby sweet pickles, or 5-6 inches long for dills. 55-60 days to full maturity.

Get organic seeds to grow this type now, available on Amazon.

Northern Pickling

Developed in Maine. Short vines produce many black-spined fruits in 48 days. Highly resistant to scab.

Northern Pickling, 50 Organic Seeds

Organic seeds are available on Amazon.

Selections for Zones 5-7

Breadbasket folks, check out these varieties.

Bush Champion

Prolific producer of 8- to 11-inch fruit.

Bush Champion Seeds

Straight, crisp, and bright green cukes in 60 days from short, compact plants.

You can get these seeds in packages of 60 or 150 directly from Burpee, or they are also available on Amazon.

Spacemaster

Two- to 3-foot vines produce 7½-inch cucumbers. Resistant to Cucumber mosaic virus and scab.

Spacemaster, 50 Organic Seeds

Organic Spacemaster seeds are available on Amazon.

Cool Breeze

Early yields, at 45 days. Burpless fruit best harvested at four to five inches long. Strong, vigorous plants are disease resistant.

Cool Breeze, 250 seeds

Cool Breeze seeds are available on Amazon.

Picklebush

White-spined 4½-inch fruit have that classic pickle look: green with pale stripes.

Picklebush Seeds

Highly productive. Two- to 4-foot vines. Mature at 52 days.

Get these seeds now on Amazon.

Fancipak

Uniform, blocky fruit shape. Tender skin. Medium green cukes ready to harvest in 53-54 days.

Fancipak, 250 Seeds

This variety is available on Amazon.

Varieties for Zones 8-10

Southern gardeners will likely have good luck with these recommendations.

General Lee

Bred specifically for the south, though it also does well elsewhere.

General Lee, 50 Seeds

Straight, 8- to 8.5-inch long dark green fruits. Matures in 66 days.

Seeds are available online, via Amazon.

Turbo

Popular hybrid matures in 67 days. Nine-inch dark green fruit with small seed cavity. Good heat resistance.

Turbo, 15 Seeds

Seeds are available on Amazon.

Thunder

Burpless hybrid with tender skin. Seven inches long. Ready to pick in 55 days.

Thunder, 25 Seeds

Purchase this type online, via Amazon.

Speedway

Moderately vigorous vines bear high yields in 54 days. Eight-inch, uniform fruit. Hybrid.

Speedway, 15 Seeds

Seeds are available on Amazon.

Poinsett 76

Heirloom. Seven to 8 inches long with good resistance to downy and powdery mildew. Dark green with white spines.

Poinsett 76, 50 Organic Seeds

Organic seeds are available on Amazon.

Intimidator

Dark green, almost spineless, with a slight taper.

Intimidator, 250 Seeds

Disease resistant. Matures in 53 days. Doesn’t do well up north. High yield.

These are available online, via Amazon.

Carolina

Matures in a quick 51 days. Low percentage of nubs and crooks. Harvest at 3 inches long for excellent pickles.

Carolina, 100 Organic Seeds

Get this cuke variety now – organic seeds are available on Amazon.

County Fair

Two-foot, vigorous vines produce copious 3-inch fruits in 52 days.

County Fair, 250 Seeds

Burpless variety for making spears, chips, and whole pickles. Seedless if kept away from other cucumbers. Hybrid.

You’ll find County Fair seeds online, available from Amazon.

Jackson Supreme

Dark, blocky, white-spine fruit on short vines.

Jackson Supreme, 50 Seeds

Resistant to a wide number of diseases. Hybrid that produces cukes in 52 days.

Get this variety now, on Amazon.

Is a Cucumber a Fruit or a Vegetable?

The cucumber is a favorite vegetable of many…but wait…is a cucumber a fruit or a vegetable?

First, what is a cucumber? A popular garden vegetable; popular for eating fresh, preserving in pickles, and adding to salads. The cucumber is the fruit of the Cucumis sativus plant which is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family.

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There are 2 general types of cucumbers:

  • slicing; which are used for fresh eating mostly
  • pickling; smaller, usually used for pickling

Growing up kids always flaunted the knowledge that a tomato is a fruit NOT a vegetable. And, while yes, that is true, have you ever stopped to think about what makes a vegetable versus what makes a fruit?

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Well, that depends based on who you are asking and what their criteria is for deciding.

So first let’s look at the technical definition of a fruit, according to Merriam Webster: “the usually edible reproductive body of a seed plant”

So, let’s take a look at what this means for cucumbers.

According to Science: the cucumber is a fruit

As seen above, scientifically speaking, a fruit is the part of a plant that develops from the flower and contains the seeds of the plant. According to botanical definitions, the fruit of a plant is what allows the plant to reproduce. It develops from the ovary of the flower and contains the seeds the plant needs to reproduce into future generation.

By this definition, a cucumber is a fruit. It develops from the flower of the cucumber plant and contains the seeds.

This also means that lots of other “vegetables” are also fruits: beans, peppers, pumpkins, okra, and of course, tomatoes.

All other parts of the plant- roots, leaves, stalks, etc- would be the vegetables.

So in the garden- the cucumber is the fruit of the plant. But bring it inside to the kitchen, and you may get a different answer!

Related Reading: Can Dogs Eat Cucumbers?

According to Cooks: the cucumber is a vegetable

In the kitchen and in the culinary world the cucumber would be described as a vegetable. Their less scientific criteria classifies fruits and vegetables based on sweetness and sugar content.

Fruits have a more delicate flavor. They have a softer texture and are sweet or tart in taste. Fruits are more likely to be featured in desserts, jams, smoothies, or other sweeter dishes. And I don’t know about you, but whether or not you can make a pie from it, can be a big deciding factor as well!

Vegetables are harder, with a somewhat bitter taste. They are used in savory dishes and soups.

So in the kitchen, cucumbers would be considered a vegetable as it is low in sugar and usually used in more savory dishes (though I’ve used them in a few sweeter dishes and they are delicious!)

Does It Really Matter?

NO! Cucumbers are delicious and have a lot of nutritional value- so no matter if you think a cucumber is a fruit or a vegetable keep on eating them and keep on growing them!

Cucumbers have a ton of uses from hydrating cucumber infused water to cucumber face masks. With their high water content and low calories, cucumbers make the perfect summertime snack.

Learn More About Cucumbers:

Check out these articles below to learn more about cucumbers, the benefits of cucumbers, how to store them, and more!

10 Ways to Preserve Cucumbers

14 Cucumber Water Recipes and Combinations

12 Benefits of Cucumber Water for Your Health

30+ Ways to Use Fresh Cucumbers

Best Cucumber Companion Plants

7 Tips for Growing Amazing Cucumbers

Cucumber fruit or vegetable

Is cucumber a fruit or a vegetable?

The question ‘Is cucumber a fruit or a vegetable?’ is a common one. At Tommies, we chiefly look at the answer to this question from a health perspective. Fruit and vegetables have many healthy qualities in common. They are both healthy due to the vitamins, fibre, minerals and other healthy nutrients. They help you to stay fit and protect your health. By eating many different types of fruit and vegetables, you can ensure that you get all the nutrients you need. Before we answer the question ‘Is cucumber a fruit or a vegetable?’, we therefore first give our most important conclusion:

Whether a cucumber is a fruit or a vegetable, the snack cucumbers from Tommies are definitely healthy!

Why do we wonder whether cucumber is a fruit or a vegetable?

Why is it that we ask ourselves the question, ‘Is cucumber a fruit or a vegetable?’, where does this confusion come from? ‘Vegetable’ is the collective name for all other edible parts of a plant. Despite the fact that we only eat the fruit of the cucumber plant, in our daily use we see it as a vegetable. This is what creates the confusion. So is a cucumber a fruit or a vegetable then? The answer to this question can vary, depending on the perspective from which you look at the discussion. See below for the linguistic, cultural, horticultural, botanical and culinary points of view on the question, ‘Is a cucumber a fruit or a vegetable?”

The cultural answer

How have we got used to talking about cucumbers over the years, from a cultural perspective? Do we talk about cucumber as a fruit or a vegetable? And how do we handle cucumbers? We mainly talk about cucumbers as a vegetable. And at the supermarket we usually find cucumbers in the vegetable department, amongst other vegetables. So from a cultural point of view, we see the cucumber as a vegetable.

Horticulture: cucumber is a vegetable

How does the horticultural industry consider the question, ‘Is cucumber a fruit or a vegetable?’ The division of vegetable and fruit cultivation in the horticultural industry is as follows:
– Everything that grows on a herbaceous plant is a vegetable
– Everything that grows on a woody plant is a fruit.

Cucumbers don’t grow on a woody plant, but on a herbaceous plant. Therefore the cucumber is seen as a vegetable.

Another horticultural argument is that in vegetable cultivation, the plant is finished after harvesting. A cucumber grows on an annual plant, and is therefore seen as a vegetable.

Botany: Is cucumber vegetable or fruit?

Neither ‘vegetable’ nor ‘fruit’ is a botanical term. Vegetables are all the edible parts of the plant. In botany, fruits, flowers, leaves and stems can all be seen as vegetables. According to botanists (those who study plants) a fruit is the part of the plant that develops from a flower. It’s also the section of the plant that contains the seeds. Therefor a cucumber is a fruit.

In culinary terms, a cucumber is a vegetable

In the kitchen there is a distinction made between fruits and vegetables based on when you eat them:
– Everything that is eaten as an entrée or main course is a vegetable
– Everything that is eaten as dessert is a fruit

So is a cucumber then a vegetable or a fruit? You can eat the snack cucumbers from Tommies at any time of day, but we usually eat cucumber during the entrée or main course. In a culinary sense cucumbers are therefore clearly a vegetable.

Is cucumber a fruit or a vegetable? The answer from Tommies

Whether we call it a fruit or a vegetable, at Tommies we chiefly focus on the healthy nutrients in cucumbers. As this article shows, the discussion ‘Is cucumber a fruit or a vegetable’ has many different points of view. That’s why we have a good term for our tasty and healthy snack products: fruit veggies!

Few foods are as cool as a cucumber. These low-calorie veggies contain many nutritional benefits, including hydrating properties and valuable nutrients.

There are hundreds of varieties of cucumber, and they come in dozens of colors, but the edible types are classified as being for either slicing or pickling, according to Cornell University’s Growing Guide. Slicing cucumbers are cultivated to be eaten fresh, while pickling cucumbers are intended for the brine jar. Slicing cucumbers are usually larger and thicker-skinned than pickling ones.

In the United States, commonly planted varieties of slicing cucumber include Dasher, Conquistador, Slicemaster, Victory, Comet, Burpee Hybrid and Sprint, according to the World’s Healthiest Foods website. Commonly planted varieties of pickling cucumber include Royal, Calypso, Pioneer, Bounty, Regal, Duke and Blitz.

While most people think of cucumbers as vegetables, they are actually a fruit. They contain seeds and grow from the ovaries of flowering plants. Cucumbers are members of the plant family Cucurbitaceae, which also includes squashes and melons. The most common type of slicing cucumber found in a grocery store is the garden cucumber, Cucumis sativus, according to World’s Healthiest Foods.

Nutritional profile

Cucumbers are good sources of phytonutrients (plant chemicals that have protective or disease preventive properties) such flavonoids, lignans and triterpenes, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits, according to World’s Healthiest Foods.

“We should definitely seek out foods that are nutrient-rich, using the positive approach of what to put on your plate vs. what to keep off,” said Angela Lemond, a Plano, Texas-based registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The peel and seeds are the most nutrient-dense parts of the cucumber. They contain fiber and beta-carotene. “Beta carotene is an antioxidant that helps with immunity, skin, eye and the prevention of cancer,” said Lemond. A study published in the Pakistan Journal of Nutrition found that cucumber seeds were a good source of minerals, and contained calcium.

“Cucumbers are naturally low in calories, carbohydrates, sodium, fat and cholesterol,” said Megan Ware, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Orlando, Florida. There are just 16 calories in a cup of cucumber with its peel (15 without). You will get about 4 percent of your daily potassium, 3 percent of your daily fiber and 4 percent of your daily vitamin C. They also “provide small amounts of vitamin K, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, manganese and vitamin A,” Ware said.

Here are the nutrition facts for cucumbers, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates food labeling through the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act:

Nutrition Facts Cucumber, with peel, raw Serving size: 1/2 cup, sliced (52 g) Calories 8 Calories from Fat 0 *Percent Daily Values (%DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Amt per Serving %DV* Amt per Serving %DV*
Total Fat 0g 0% Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0% Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Sodium 1mg 2% Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
Vitamin A 1% Calcium 1%
Vitamin C 2% Iron 1%

Health benefits of cucumbers

Hydration

Cucumbers are 95 percent water, according to Ware. This makes cucumbers a great way to stay hydrated, especially during the summer. A cup of cucumber slices is “nearly as thirst-quenching as a glass of water,” according to Eating Well magazine.

“They say we can get 20-30 percent of our fluid needs through our diet alone, and foods like these certainly help,” added Lemond. “Not only are they high in water content, they also contain important nutrients that play a part in hydration like magnesium and potassium.”

The anti-inflammatory compounds in cucumbers help remove waste from the body and reduce skin irritation, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Preliminary research also suggests cucumbers promote anti-wrinkling and anti-aging activity, according to an article in the journal Filoterapia.

Cancer prevention

Cucumbers contain two phytonutrient compounds associated with anti-cancer benefits: lignans and cucurbitacins. In recent years, pharmaceutical companies have been paying special attention to cucurbitacins, hoping to use them in new cancer drugs. According to a 2010 research review published in Scientific World Journal, scientists have found that cucurbitacins can help block the signaling pathways that are important for cancer cell proliferation and survival.

Cucurbitacins can also inhibits the growth of pancreatic cancer cells, according to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Cancer Research looked at cucurbitacin B (which cucumber contains) on human pancreatic cancer cells and found that cucurbitacin supplements inhibited the growth of seven pancreatic cancer cell lines by 50 percent, and also increased apoptosis, or “death by suicide,” of pancreatic cancer cells.

According to World’s Healthiest Foods, lignans may protect against cancer through working with the bacteria in the digestive tract. The bacteria take the lignans and convert them into compounds such as enterodiol and enterolactone, which can bind onto estrogen receptors and possibly reduce the risk of estrogen-related cancers, such as ovarian, breast, endometrial and prostate cancers. The research is not yet clear on whether lignans actually assert anti-cancer benefits.

A 2009 meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Cancer found little or no association between lignan intake and reduced breast cancer risk. Similarly, most studies have not found significant correlations between lignan intake and reduced prostate cancer risk, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, though one study of older Scottish men published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that consuming an enterolactone-containing serum reduced the risk of prostate cancer.

On the other hand, a Journal of Nutrition study of nearly 800 American women found that those with those with the highest lignan intake had the lowest risk of ovarian cancer. Furthermore, a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute looked at nearly 1,000 women in the San Francisco area and found that postmenopausal women with the highest lignan intakes had the lowest risk of endometrial cancer.

Skin

You’ve probably seen pictures of people at a spa relaxing with cucumber slices over their eyes. It turns out there’s science behind this pampering ritual. Ware explained, “Cucumbers have a cooling and soothing effect that decreases swelling, irritation and inflammation when used topically. Cucumber slices can be placed on the eyes can decrease morning puffiness or alleviate and treat sunburn when placed on the affected areas.” She also noted that high vegetable intake is associated with a healthy complexion in general.

Bone health

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, in the past few decades, it has become clear that vitamin K is important to bone health, and one cup of cucumber contains about 19 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K. One review published in Nutrition noted that vitamin K intake might reduce fracture rates, work with vitamin D to increase bone density and positively affect calcium balance.

The human body uses vitamin K when building bones, and the effects seem to be especially important for women. A large 2003 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study showed that low vitamin K levels were associated with low bone density in women, but not in men. Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1999 found that low intakes of vitamin K were associated with an increased risk of hip fractures in middle-age women. This is especially interesting because the women saw results from eating lettuce, showing that dietary consumption of vitamin K via eating vegetables (not supplements) is beneficial. When it comes to men, the affects of vitamin K and bone health may become more apparent as they age: A 2000 study saw reduced risk of hip fracture among both elderly women and elderly men who consumed more vitamin K.

Antioxidants

“Foods that are high in antioxidants allow your body to function optimally. Antioxidants help prevent damage and cancer,” Lemond said.

Cucumbers contain several antioxidants, including vitamin C, beta-carotene and manganese, as well as flavonoids, triterpenes and lignans that have anti-inflammatory properties. Vitamin C is well known for its immune system benefits, and beta-carotene has been shown to be beneficial for vision, according to the Mayo Clinic.

According to a 2010 animal study published in the Journal of Young Pharmacists, fresh extracts from cucumber showed increased scavenging of free radicals. Free radicals are associated with a variety of human diseases, but can sometimes be held in check by antioxidants, according to the Pharmacognosy Review.

Another study of cucumber extracts in animals, published in the Archives of Dermatological Research, found increased overall antioxidant benefits. Though this study focused on the cosmetic applications of this use of cucumbers, decreased free radicals can improve your inside organs as well as your skin.

An additional study published in Current Pharmaceutical Design found a positive association between the triterpene cucurbitacin and reduced inflammation, particularly in cancer cells. A review of triterpenes on the immune system, published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, suggested that they can help with inflammation and encouraged future research.

Heart health

“Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables of all kinds is associated with a reduced risk for many health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and obesity,” said Ware. Cucumbers’ potassium content may be especially helpful in this regard. One cup of sliced cukes contains only about 4 percent of the body’s daily potassium needs, but it comes with significantly fewer calories than most high-potassium foods like bananas. Potassium is an essential part of heart health, according to the American Heart Association. A study of 12,000 adults, published in Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that those who consumed 4,069 mg of potassium each day lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease and ischemic heart disease by 37 percent and 49 percent, respectively, compared to those who took 1,793 mg per day.

Several studies have linked cucumber consumption to reducing hypertension. Many studies have linked it with lower blood pressure because it promotes vasodiliation (widening of the blood vessels), according to Today’s Dietitian. A 2017 study published in Public Health of Indonesia found that elderly participants with hypertension saw a significant decrease in blood pressure after consuming cucumber juice for 12 days. Additionally, a 2009 review in Indian Academy of Clinical Medicine suggested that hypertension sufferers incorporate cucumbers into their diets because of the fruit’s low sodium content.

The vitamin K in cucumbers is also known to be essential in the blood-clotting process, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

Digestion

A 2013 review in Fitoterapia noted that cucumbers might help relieve constipation because they provide both fiber and water. Tufts University notes that cucumbers can pack even more of a digestive punch if they are turned into pickles during a home-fermentation process. Cucumber pickles contain probiotic bacteria that promote healthy digestion and cultivating beneficial gut flora. Store-bought pickles usually do not have these bacteria because they have been boiled out.

Weight loss

Cucumbers are a low-calorie food therefore a popular ingredient in diet meals. A 2011 study in the journal Obesity found that greater water consumption correlated with more weight loss in middle-age and older adults. Participants who consumed 1 pint (500 milliliters) of water prior to eating a meal lost an average of 4 lbs. (2 kilograms) more than participants who did not. Snacking on water-dense foods like cucumbers can be an effective way to up water intake.

But Lemond cautions against relying too much on water-dense foods like cucumber. “We know that people that eat higher quantities of fruits and vegetables typically have healthier body weights. However, I do not recommend eating only cucumber. You will lose weight, but that weight will be mostly muscle,” she said.

Brain health and memory

Recently, scientists have taken interest in the flavonoid fisetin. Cucumbers are a good source of fisetin, which studies have associated with protecting nerve cells, improving memory and decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s in mice, according to a 2013 review in the journal of Antioxidants & Redox Signaling. The same review found promising results for the relationship between fisetin and cancer prevention.

Risks of eating cucumbers

There can be a few risks from eating cukes. Pesticide consumption is one concern. Ware explained, “The Environmental Working Group produces a list each year of fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residue, known as the Dirty Dozen. Cucumbers are one of the fruits and vegetables that the Environmental Working Group has placed on its Dirty Dozen list, meaning the exposure to pesticide residue is high.”

Additionally, cucumbers may be waxed to help protect them during shipping. According to World’s Healthiest Foods, both organic and conventionally grown cukes may be waxed, but organic ones can only use non-synthetic waxes with chemicals approved under organic regulations. For this reason and the pesticide concerns, World’s Healthiest Foods encourages buying organic cucumbers. But Ware stipulated, “This does not mean you should avoid cucumbers altogether if you can’t find or afford organic. The nutritional benefit of eating conventionally grown produce outweighs the risk of not eating produce at all.”

Healthy as they are, you don’t want to overdo it on cucumbers, said Lemond. “My recommendation is always to vary your selections. Cucumbers are great hydrating foods, so keep them in along with other plant foods that offer other benefits. Variety is always key.”

Pickles

Pickling is a method of preserving food — and not only cucumbers — to prevent spoiling. There are two basic types of pickles: fermented and non-fermented, according to the World’s Healthiest Foods.

Fermented pickles have been soaked in brine, which is water that has been saturated with salt. The word “pickle” comes from the Dutch word pekel, which means brine. Brines can also contain other ingredients, such as vinegar, dill seed, garlic and lime.

Dill pickles are brined with dill added to the solution, obviously. Kosher dills are brined with dill and garlic. “Kosher” in this case does not necessarily mean the cucumbers have been prepared according to kosher dietary laws, however; it just means garlic has been added to the brining process, according to the World’s Healthiest Foods.

Gherkin pickles are usually just immature cucumbers, according to Cornell University.

Additional resources

  • Cornell University: Cucumber Growing Guide
  • Cleveland Clinic: 7 Foods That Will Satisfy Your Thirst and Hunger
  • The World’s Healthiest Foods: Cucumbers
  1. Moisten a sheet of paper towel so that it’s uniformly damp, but not dripping wet.
  2. Place the 10 seeds in a row along the damp paper towel.
  3. Roll or fold the paper towel around the seeds so that they are covered.
  4. Place the paper towel with the seeds into the plastic bag and seal it. Write the date on the plastic bag, so there’s no guesswork involved. If you are testing more than one type of seed, also label the bag with the seed type and variety.
  5. Place the plastic bag somewhere warm, about 70 degrees Fahrenheit (a sunny windowsill or on top of the refrigerator should work).
  6. Check daily to be sure the paper towel does not dry out. It shouldn’t because it is sealed, but if it gets very warm, you may need to re-moisten the towel with a spray bottle.
  7. Start checking for germination in about five days. To do this, gently unroll the paper towel. You may even be able to see sprouting through the rolled towel. Very often the roots will grow right through it.
  8. Check your seed packet for average germination times for your particular seed, but generally, 7–10 days should be enough time for the test.
  9. After 10 days, unroll the paper towel and count how many seeds have sprouted. This will give you the percentage germination you can expect from the remaining seeds in the packet. If only three sprouted, it is a 30% germination rate. Seven would be a 70% germination rate, nine would be a 90% germination rate, and so on.

Planting Old Seeds – Can You Use Out-Of-Date Seeds?

It happens to all gardeners. We tend to go a bit hog wild in the spring, buying way too many seeds. Sure, we plant a few but then we throw the rest in a drawer and next year, or even many years later, we find them and wonder about the possibility of planting old seeds. Is it a waste of time germinating old seeds?

Can You Use Out-of-Date Seeds?

The simple answer is planting old seeds is possible and okay. No harm will come from using old seeds. The flowers or fruit that come from out-of-date seeds will be of the same quality as if they were grown from fresh seeds. Using seeds from old vegetable seed packets will produce vegetables that are just as nutritious as those from current season seeds.

The question is not so much about using old seeds, but rather your chances of germinating old seeds.

How Long Will Old Seeds Stay Viable?

In order for a seed to germinate, it must be viable, or alive. All seeds are alive when they come from their mother plant. There is a baby plant in every seed and, as long as it is alive, the seed will grow even if they are technically out-of-date seeds.

  • Three major things affect a seed’s viability:

    Age – All seeds stay viable for at least a year and most will be viable for two years. After the first year, the germination rates for out-of-date seeds will start to fall.

  • Type – The type of seed can affect how long a seed stays viable. Some seeds, like corn or peppers, will have a hard time surviving past the two year mark. Some seeds, like beans, peas, tomatoes and carrots, can stay viable as long as four years. Seeds like cucumber or lettuce can stay viable up to six years.
  • Storage conditions – Your old vegetable seed packets and flower packets will have a much better chance of keeping their seeds viable if they are stored well. Seeds will stay viable much longer if stored in a cool, dark place. Your produce drawer in the refrigerator is a good choice for storage.

Regardless of the date on your seed packet, germinating old seeds is worth a shot. Using old seeds is a great way to make up for last year’s excesses.

Each winter, I start thinking about what seeds I may want to plant in my garden for spring and summer. Before I get too far in my planning, I first rifle through the half-empty packets of seeds left over from the prior year (and in some cases, several years) and wonder if any of them are still viable. I usually shrug, toss the seeds in the ground, and wait to see what happens. If the seeds don’t germinate, then I buy some new ones. Obviously, this haphazard approach to planting is far from ideal because it can put me several weeks behind my intended planting schedule by the time I notice that the seeds haven’t germinated.

But this year, I decided to do a little research about how long seeds last. I was a little surprised to learn that seed viability varies considerably with the type of plant. Seed viability also will vary depending on whether the seeds are have been pretreated or pelletized. I was less surprised to learn that viability varies even under optimal storage conditions.

Seeds should be stored in cool, dry, dark conditions. Place the seeds in an airtight, watertight container such as a jar with a rubber seal (like a baby food jar or canning jar) or a zip lock bag inside a jar. To keep the seeds cool (ideally, below 50 degrees), some people store them in a jar in their refrigerator or freezer.

Seeds in good condition and stored properly will last at least one year and, depending on the plant, may last two to five years. I found a quite a few tables on the internet indicating the average shelf life of vegetable and flower seeds that are properly stored. Those sources are listed below. Here is a shorter version for a variety of vegetable seeds:

(Source: Johnny’s Selected Seeds http://www.johnnyseeds.com/t-faq.aspx#questionshelflife)

If you are uncertain about whether seeds will germinate, you can do an easy germination test. Count out a specific number of seeds, anywhere from ten to one hundred seeds. Moisten a paper towel or a coffee filter and place the seeds on it. Fold or roll up the moistened paper over the seeds, making sure that the seeds don’t touch each other, and put the paper inside a plastic bag in a warm place. Check the seeds after two or three days and then every day thereafter for a week or so. Spray the paper as need to maintain moisture. After the standard germination period has passed (as provided on the seed packet), count to see how many seeds have germinated and calculate the percentage of germination by dividing the number of seeds germinated by the number of seeds tested. Compare the germination percentage it to the germination rate (if there is one) on the seed packet label. If the seed germination rate is high, then the seeds are fine to plant. If the germination rate is low, you may want to purchase new seeds.

Sources for seed viability tables:

Vegetable seeds

Vegetable and flower seeds

  • Clear Creek Seeds: http://www.clearcreekseeds.com/seed-viability-chart/
  • Hill Gardens: http://hillgardens.com/seed_longevity.htm

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