- A food production wiki for public health professionals
- Cucumbers 101
- Cucumber vs zucchini…how to spot the difference
- Variations of cucumber
- How to store cucumbers
- Best cucumber recipes
- Cucumber Nutrition Information
- Cucumbers FAQs: Everything You Need To Know
- The Answers To Your Top 10 Cucumber Questions
- What are the health benefits of Cucumbers?
- What vitamins and minerals are found in Cucumbers?
- Are there different varieties of Cucumbers?
- What is the best way to store Cucumbers to keep them fresh?
- How long does it take Cucumbers to grow?
- How do you know when Cucumbers are ready to pick?
- What should you look for when choosing a Cucumber?
- Can you eat the skin of a Cucumber?
- What are some of the best ways to enjoy or prepare Cucumbers?
- What is the best Cucumber recipe?
- Reasons For White Cucumbers: Why Cucumber Fruit Turns White
- Reasons for White Cucumbers
- Is it Safe to Eat White Cucumber?
- What to Do about White Spots on Cucumber Leaves
- The Cause of and Fix for Cucumber Leaves Turning White
A food production wiki for public health professionals
- Key Facts
- The top three countries that imported cucumbers to the United States in 2013 were Mexico (1,144,458,000 Ibs), Canada (215,028,000 lbs), and Honduras (65,244,000 lbs).
- In 2012, the top cucumber-producing states, as reported by the United States Department of Agriculture, were Georgia and Florida, with 283.5 and 280.8 million pounds, respectively.
- There are three growing seasons in South Florida for field planted cucumbers; the fall season is from September to October, the winter season is from November to December, and the spring season is from January to March.
- In the United States, from 1998 to 2013, there were ten reported outbreaks associated with cucumbers, and 483 people fell ill. The pathogens implicated in these outbreaks were enteropathogenic coli, norovirus genogroup I and II,and Salmonella Saintpaul.
- How to Plant Cucumbers in Hydroponic Greenhouse
- Inside a Seedless Cucumber Greenhouse
- Harrison Harvester
- ASA Lift
The cucumber plant (Cucumis sativus) belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family, a part of the Cucumis genus. The Cucumis genus contains nearly 40 species, such as the cantaloupe (C. melo), and watermelon (Citrullus vulgaris). The cucumber has many common names including pepino, cetriolo, gherkin, gurke, krastavac, concombre, hunggua, kiukaba, khira, kiukamupa, and kukamba.
Cucumis sativus is a frost-sensitive annual with coarse (large, bold, and rough) leaves and a creeping vine that can reach upwards of six feet in length. The spiraling, hairy vine and tendrils that originate from the axil, allow the plant to readily climb supporting structures. Hairy, three to five-lobed leaves, with a triangular shape that are 10 – 40 cm in size, are each supported on a petiole and provide a canopy to cover the flowers and fruit. The overall root system is generally shallow (usually penetrates top 30 cm of soil) with lateral roots extending further than the vine; however, a tap root can reach one meter deep.
The cucumber plant produces three types of rough, yellow flowers, including a male or staminate flower, a female or pistillate flower, and a hermaphrodite flower with both male and female structures. The pistillate flower can be recognized by its thin pedicles; it also has a large ovary (immature fruit) at its base. The ovary has three chambers and is connected to short, thick stigma lobes. The staminate flower grows in clusters, and each flower is on a slender stem containing three stamens. Hermaphroditic flowers are able to produce round fruits. Regardless of the sex, the flowers are yellow with wrinkled petals.
Cucumber plants are naturally monoecious, meaning there are separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Gynoecious predominately produce female flowers, however, they will produce male flowers under conditions that include longer days, high temperatures, and light intense days. The seeds of both monoecious and gynoecious maybe mixed for planting in the same area. Pollen is transferred by bees and other insects from the male to female flower. On commercial farms, gynoecious hybrids are more frequently used as they are more productive and develop earlier.
The cucumber fruit is known as a “false berry.” It grows in either a round or triangular shape and is covered in a hard, thick outer rind. The fruit goes through two stages, immature and mature. During the immature stage, chlorophyll in the cells located under the fruit’s epidermis makes the rind green in color. In the mature stage, the rind changes to a yellow-white color and the epidermal layer may develop warty areas that form a trichomes (spiky hair). The fruit has three locules of soft tissue where the seeds are embedded. The cucumber fruit ranges in color from yellow, orange, white, and green. A regular cucumber contains seeds and can also be referred to as a seeded cucumber. Regular cucumbers have green stripes on a dark green skin with a rough surface and strong trichomes. They are about 15-25 cm in length and uniformly cylindrical. English cucumbers are evenly green throughout and long in length (about 25-50 cm). The English cucumber is cylindrical in shape, with a short, narrow neck at the end of the stem, and contains either atrophic seeds that are barely identifiable or no seeds.
The cucumber plant is native to India and has been cultivated for more than 3000 years. In the United States, the volume of cucumbers pickled is higher than any other vegetable; with 550,000 metric tons being produced each year. The 2012, United States Department of Agriculture data, showed the state of Georgia producing more cucumbers than any other state in the United States with 283.5 million pounds of cucumbers. Florida followed, producing 280.8 million pounds of cucumbers. The most prominent area in Florida producing cucumbers is the west-central region, which includes the counties of Hillsborough, Manatee, and Hardee.
- Burpless cucumber. Photo
Cucumbers are commonly grouped into three types: burpless, slicing, and pickling. Greenhouse cucumbers are also classified as a cucumber cultivar and can be included in this list.
This cucumber has a mild taste and contains less of the burp-causing compound called cucurbitacin. Burpless cucumbers are long and slender with tender skin; they are available year-round.
The Asian cucumber, a sub-variety of the burpless, grows to between 10 and 14 inches long, is usually thin and straight, and has a dark green color with semi-rough skin. The taste is milder flavor than standard types.
Asian cucumber. Photo
The slicing, or fresh market cucumber is usually 8 – 9 inches long with blocky ends and small yellow ground spots on a thick, dark-green skin. The thick skin of this type of cucumber makes it less prone to damage during harvest. Slicing cucumbers are considered semi-dwarf. The plant only requires two feet of space for growth and it is resistant to powdery mildew, anthracnose, cucumber mosaic virus, downy mildew, scab, and angular leaf spot. Both monoecious and gynoecious hybrids are available.
Regular cucumbers are American cucumbers. These cucumbers belong to a sub-variety of the slicing cucumber. They are typically about eight inches long with a slight bulge in the middle and with larger and more plentiful seeds than other varieties. After harvest, they are waxed to improve moisture retention and shelf life.
English cucumbers for sale in at an outdoor market in Beauvais, France. Photo: Brialle Brewton
These cucumbers are typically warty, thin, and light green color skin with the fruit size ranging from 3 to 7 inches. Maturation can take up to 60 days. Commercial cultivars have black or white spines that form as the fruit matures. The white-spine cultivars usually develop more slowly than the black-spine cultivars but, unlike the black-spine fruit, they generally retain their green color and firmness of their skin longer. The premature black-spine cultivars turn yellow at higher temperatures. Both cultivars are used in the pickling industry. The white-spine cultivars are predominately used in the warmer seasons with mechanical harvesting; whereas as black-spine cultivars are grown in regions that experience cool summer conditions.
The skin of the Kirby cucumber is thin and bumpy, and the color varies from light to dark green. This cucumber is a sub-variety in pickling cucumbers.
Kirby cucumber. Photo
It is smaller in size growing 3 – 6 inches long, and often grows in an irregular shape. The flavor it produces can be mild to sour.
The Gherkin cucumber is much smaller than other types, and it has a long distinctive fruit stem. The color ranges from a light yellow to pale green and the fruit is covered in short fleshy spines. The taste of the West Indian Gherkin is sweet at first, then it turns sour.
The Bush Pickle produces four-inch fruits that are deep green in color with pale green stripes and a blocky shape. Maturation takes place in 55 days.
Armenian cucumber. Photo
The Armenian cucumber, also known as the ‘snake cucumber’ is actually a member of the melon family. The fruit of the Armenian cucumber is 12 to 15 inches in length with thin pale green skin.
The appearance of greenhouse cultivars is usually long and narrow with smooth skin and rounded ends. There are two types of greenhouse cultivars: English and Japanese. The Japanese cucumber has a melon-like flavor and its taste is never bitter. The English varietals have a high yield potential and are parthenocarpic (fruit being produced without presence of an egg in the ovary) with gynoecious expression, which are different from the Japanese types that are primarily monoecious.
For more information regarding the production and distribution of Cucumbers please visit the Produce Point of Origin Database.
From 1998–2013, in the United States, there have been a total of 10 cucumber-associated outbreaks, during which 483 people became ill and eight were hospitalized. Cucumber salad, cucumber sandwiches, and raw cucumbers are among the implicated food items. The outbreaks occurred in private homes, restaurants, conferences, and hotels.
In 2013, an outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul was linked to imported cucumbers from Mexico. This outbreak caused 84 people to become ill, with 17 hospitalizations. On April 24, 2013, importation of cucumbers was shut down by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; two trading firms were placed on import alert for cucumbers. These two firms had to prove that the cucumbers they were importing into the United States were Salmonella-free before the import alert was lifted.
A 2015 outbreak of Salmonella serotype Poona was linked to cucumbers and prompted a voluntary recall of cucumbers sold by the distributor Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce. A second distributor, Custom Produce Sales, also issued a voluntary recall on cucumbers that had been sent by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce. The implicated cucumbers were produced by the firm Rancho Don Juanito in Baja California, Mexico and imported to the United States. An investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) observed issues with waste-water management, equipment design of the pre-wash area, and storage of packing material at this firm. Domestically produced cucumbers were not believed to be involved in this outbreak. A total of 907 people across 40 states were infected with the outbreak strain, with 204 hospitalizations and six deaths. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) appeared to link illnesses occurring a month after the recall with illnesses during the peak of the outbreak in August and early September. Investigators were unable to determine if these later illnesses were due to cross-contamination within distribution chains.
The growth period of greenhouse cucumbers lasts from 55 – 60 days. The primary method for cucumber planting is direct seeding in rows spaced 3 – 4 feet wide, with 4 – 8 inches between plants in the row. The seed depth should be 1 –1 1 ½ inches. Close proximity of plants will increase the yield, reduce weed growth, and keep the maturity rate uniform.
Cucumbers are sensitive to growing conditions. Favorable growing conditions for a cucumber are similar to that of semitropical plants; humidity, high temperatures, intensity of light, and constant water and nutrient supply are all necessary. Under these conditions, and with proper pest management, the plants have an opportunity to grow fast and produce heavy yield. Maintaining a canopy that allows the maximum amount of light and air to the plant will create maximum yields. This involves frequent pruning of the stems, laterals, and tendrils, as well as vertical wire training. When the plant produces too much fruit, it can cause the plant to become exhausted and abort future fruit.
Air temperature impacts vegetative growth, flower initiation, fruit development and quality. Optimum growing night temperatures range from 66.2 – 68 degrees Fahrenheit and optimum day temperatures range from 68 – 7 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
Regulation of greenhouse conditions is important to maximize yield. A disadvantage with high relative humidity is that diseases can develop and there is an increased chance that water condensation could occur on the plants. With low relative humidity, the conditions favor formation of powdery mildew and allow spider mites to reside. The irrigation system is a critical component because large amounts of water must be provided to the growing medium without flooding its roots and depriving them of oxygen.
The trellis saves space and is used to increase air circulation, helping to decrease risk of disease; it also serves as a way to protect the cucumber from developing damage due to moisture from lying on the ground.
Cucumbers grown in Florida have a long harvest season when field grown. In North Florida, field-grown cucumbers are planted from February to April and August to September. In Central Florida, the planting season is from January to March and September for the fall season. For the Southern region of Florida, planting can commence anytime from September to April. Greenhouse production in Florida is usually done September through June. Planting in greenhouses in summer months is avoided due to high heat and humidity, which reduces the plant’s production.
The type of soils used in growing cucumbers varies. Some acidic soils can be used, but they require liming and fertilization before the seeds are planted. Cucumbers grow best in slightly acidic soils with a pH range of 5.8 – 6.5. The soil should be properly prepared before field planting begins. Common steps include soil fumigation, black plastic mulching, applying fertilizer during bed preparation, using foil or other reflective mulches for repelling aphids, and applying direct seeding throughout the mulch. Cucumber seedlings develop faster in higher temperatures, but cucumber growth is improved when soil temperatures are cooler.
Nearly all greenhouse production of cucumbers in Florida uses bag culture and perlite as the medium. Rockwell may also be used as a medium. Greenhouse cucumbers do best in soil with a pH range of 5.5 – 7.5, but, specifically for mineral soils, the pH range must be from 6.0 – 6.5. As for organic soils in greenhouse production, the optimum pH level must range from 5.0 – 5.5.
Different varieties of cucumbers are able to cross pollinate with each other. A pollen grain is needed for each seed within each cucumber. Without proper pollination, the fruit could be aborted, disfigured, or be a poor fruit set (transition of an ovary to a young fruit). Proper pollination hives should be brought to the field when 25% of the plants in the field have flowered. A single flower needs to be visited by bees 10 – 20 times to be pollinated. If the bees are brought into the fields before 25% of the plants have flowered the bees could be attracted to other food sources such as wildflowers, thereby reducing yield. When bringing hives to the fields the weather should not be cool or wet, as these conditions are unfavorable for bees, and this causes the bees to be less active and the outcome is poor fruit sets.
Soil and Amendments
Cucumber plan after germination. Photo Credit: http://publicphoto.org/plants/young-cucumber-plant/
Cucumbers are well grown in muck soil, but can be produced in sandy soils as well, which requires less cleaning before marketing.
In cucumber production, soil amendments are used for improvement of soil quality. Composted green waste or manure can be added to soils before planting begins, which helps to increase the holding capacity for water and supply nutrients to the crop. Farmers must be careful where they purchase the manure from since E. coli is a known contaminant; it is best to look into commercially composted manure. Soil mulches are commonly used to modify soil properties such as temperature, weed control, conserving water, protecting fruit from insects, soil moisture, and to control erosion. There are nutrients that farmers may choose to use during the process of producing cucumbers. The primary nutrients used are nitrogen, potassium, phosphate and the secondary nutrients are considered magnesium, calcium, and sulfur. For cucumbers that are grown on mulch that are polyethylene free, reductions of up to one half of the nitrogen and potassium fertilizer are applied at planting.
Many irrigation systems work well for cucumber production. The type of irrigation system that is used is based on natural resources and cost benefits. Drip, sprinkler, and surface are types of irrigation systems used with mulched production. Drip irrigation uses a variety of plastic pipes to carry a low flow of water under low pressure to plants. The low volume application of water to plant roots allows for a balance of air and water in the soil, providing plants with better growth. Sprinkler irrigation systems are different from the other systems because they apply water through the air versus directly in the soil. The water can be distributed through a pipe or sprinkler head and is sprayed into the air and falls on the ground similar to rainfall. Surface irrigation systems distribute water by gravity flow of water going over the soils’ surface. As this occurs the soil stores the water and the system acts as a medium spreading and infiltrating the water. Some greenhouse cucumbers are irrigated using a closed irrigation technique called a drain-to-waste irrigation system.
Common sources of water for irrigation are ground, surface, or potable waters. The water’s pH is important in an irrigation system, the recommended optimum pH of the nutrient (nitric, sulfuric, and phosphoric acid) solution that is applied to the plants through the irrigation system should range in between 5.5 – 6.0. These conditions vary if the water has a high bicarbonate concentration, which prevents precipitation when fertilizer salts are added.
Salinity, perchlorate, chloride, and glyphosate toxicity can all negatively affect cucumbers during their growing process. Salinity can cause plant growth to be stunted and cause leaves to have a dull, dark green color with a narrow band of yellow necrotic tissue around leaves prone to wilting. Studies have demonstrated that with an increase of salt in the water there is a decrease in cucumber yield. Chloride, when added to water used in the irrigation system, showed a reduction in plant vigor and produced a light green tissue band around the leaves margins, along with necrosis and edge scorching. These leaves are at risk for a reduction in photosynthesis activity and premature leaf abscission. Perchlorate is a strong acid and is available in mineral deposits of natural nitrates. Due to its strong chemical properties it decreases the Ribulose Diphosphate Carboxylase (RuDP) enzyme activity used for cultivation in greenhouse vegetables. The symptoms of exposure to high concentrations of perchlorate include female flowers beginning to open, leaves curling with partial necrosis, a reduction in fruit sets, which in turn reduces yields.
Pests & Insecticides
The spotted cucumber beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata howardi Barber. Photo Credit: James Castner, Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida.
Pesticides are used in the cucumber production process to help decrease the impact of insects on the plant. There is a range of insects that can attack cucumbers, but the major insects that are prominent in Florida are the pickleworm, melonworm, and silverleaf whitefly. In cucumber greenhouse production, the most common pest is the whitefly. Other insects that impact production outside of greenhouse are arthropods as melon thrips, leafminers, banded cucumber beetle, flea beetles, mites, stink bugs, wireworms, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, squash bug, squash vine borer, and loopers. These pests pose a serious concern for the grower, as cucumber crops have a very low tolerance for insect damage. The cucumber beetle is comprised of six different species across the United States. Three of these beetles are found in Florida. The banded cucumber beetle is located in the southern part of Florida. The spotted cucumber beetle and striped beetle are found in North Florida.
Pickleworm, Diaphania nitidalis, larva feeding inside a cucumber. Photo Credit: John L. Capinera, University of Florida.
The cucumber beetle’s larvae eat away at the plant from the roots to the stems. As an adult, they eat away at the stems that are below the plastic mulch, as well as the leaves and the fruit. The crop is damaged quickly by feeding on the cotyledons first and then moving to foliage. Crop damage from these beetles often transmits Erwiniatracheiphila, which is the causal agent of bacterial wilt. The squash mosaic virus can also be transmitted and there can be an increase of incidence of powdery mildew, black rot, and fusarium wilt.
Insecticides are typically used to combat bacterial wilt. As for the squash mosaic virus, which is transmitted by insects, once the plant is infected it must be removed so that it does not infect the other plants. Preventative measures, such as weed control, can be taken to try to avoid the occurrence of the virus.
In 2000, Florida growers applied insecticides totaling 15,500 pounds of active ingredient to 97 percent of the state’s fresh-market cucumber acreage. Annually, between 94 – 97 percent of fresh market cucumber acreage has been treated with insecticides; the most commonly applied insecticides in Florida on fresh-market cucumbers are Bacillus Thuringiensis, Methomyl (Lannate®), and Endosulfan, a cyclodiene chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticide.
There are a few techniques that are used to help lessen the chance of the cucumber encountering disease. Commercial growers can utilize certified disease-free seeds and keep the garden and surrounding area free of weeds that harbor insects that can spread viruses and bacterial wilt. Once harvesting is complete, growers should remove the plant debris that is left behind in the garden because some diseases have the ability to survive on plant debris. An important measure in controlling disease is host resistance. The types of diseases that can affect cucumbers are gummy stem blight, which is a leaf disease caused by the fungus Didymella bryoniae, Anthracnose caused by the fungus Colletotrichum obiculare, Fusarium wilt caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum, and downy mildew (favored in moist conditions) caused by the fungus Pseudoperonospora cubensis.
Glyphosphate is an herbicide that, even in small amounts, if absorbed by the cucumber will cause damage such as turning the color of the leaves from light green to a yellow, stunting the growth, and causing upward curling.
Fungicides are most useful when they are applied prior to infection and must be reapplied once the infection occurs every five to seven days. Some examples of the types of fungicides used are Previcur Flex, Gavel, Tanos, and Ranman.
Harvesting, Packaging, and Storage
The harvesting process can be done by hand or machine and is different depending on the cucumber. The following videos will show different harvesting techniques used in growing cucumbers.
Cucumbers should be picked when they are crisp, green, and tender; large fruits should be removed from the vine so that new fruits are encouraged to grow. Slicing cucumbers are hand-harvested at a range of 6–10 inches long and 1.5–2.5 inches in diameter. They usually are picked over a three-week time frame, six to eight times. Pickling cucumbers are generally harvested five to six times, in three to four intervals to avoid oversizing. Gherkin cucumbers are harvested daily or every other day based on the weather and the stage of growth.
Workers tending to cucumber plants. Photo Credit: Melisa F. Crane and Todd C. Wehner
Fresh-market cucumbers and European types are hand-harvested and placed in plastic bins to be transported to the packing house. Once the cucumbers have reached the packing house, they are washed, sorted, and graded. Since the fresh-market cucumbers are prone to extreme dryness, they are waxed prior to being packed to help reduce water loss and skin injury. As for greenhouse cucumbers, most are shrink-wrapped with polyethylene films.
Cucumbers should not be stored with produce that generate ethylene, such as apples and tomatoes. The ethylene in these types of produce causes the cucumber to yellow rapidly from the loss of chlorophyll. For the best postharvest results, including a long shelf-life, cucumbers should be stored at a temperature ranging from 44.6–50 degrees Fahrenheit and 85–95% relative humidity in air, 46.4–53.6 degrees Fahrenheit in1–4% oxygen and 50–54.5 degrees Fahrenheit in 0% carbon dioxide.
Cucumbers planted in a field. Photo Credit: Cucumber production (slides), 1979 North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Some cucumbers are harvested for pickling. There are three general methods used to ferment cucumbers for pickling. One way is by ‘salt shock’, in which cucumbers are preserved in 5–8% sodium chloride until the fermented sugars are converted to acids, increasing the salt concentration along the process. The second method is known as the ‘genuine dill. With this method, the cucumber is fermented in 45% sodium chloride, flavor is added, then the cucumber is sold as is. The ‘overnight dill’ is the third method, which is performed by fermenting cucumbers in 2–4% sodium chloride containing dill weed and garlic; the fermentation continues until it reaches the desired acidity. The pickled cucumbers are then refrigerated.
For more information on cucumber production, please visit Produce Point of Origin Database.
Cucumbers are often eaten raw (with and without the skin), so consumers should thoroughly wash this vegetable under warm running water before eating, cutting, or cooking. Even if the consumer plans on peeling the cucumber before consumption, it is still important to wash first to avoid cross-contamination. A clean produce brush can also be used to scrub firm produce, such as cucumbers. Any damaged or bruised areas of this vegetable should be cut away and discarded. Pre-cut or pre-peeled produce (i.e., those found in veggie platters) should be refrigerated.
Cucumbers are frequently imported from other countries outside the United States and may, therefore, undergo handling at many different points before being purchased by the consumer, so washing this vegetable is very important to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Contamination of cucumbers can occur in the produce field via contact with feces or contaminated water or by unsanitary conditions in packaging or distribution facilities. Additionally, as cucumbers are often eaten in salads and sandwiches, cross-contamination can occur during meal preparation. In multi-ingredient meals such as these, identification of the vehicle in an outbreak can be difficult.
From 1995–2005, there was a 15% growth in the consumption of fresh cucumbers—an approximately 1-pound per capita increase. As of 2012, Americans consumed an average of 6.5 pounds of fresh cucumbers per person. For pickled cucumber, Americans annually consume a more variable amount averaging 9 – 11 pounds per person. According to the 2006–2007 FoodNet Atlas of Exposures, 46.9% of the survey cohort reported eating cucumbers within the past seven days.
More information on storing cucumbers can be found on FoodKeeper App.
Cucumbers are 90 – 95 percent water and, therefore, have limited nutritional value compared to other vegetables. One serving of cucumbers contains about 45 calories, 6% of Vitamin A and Vitamin B6, and 14% Vitamin C. The cucumber can aid in alleviating irritation and sunburn similarly to the aloe plant by applying the sliced cucumbers to the affected area. The slices can also reduce puffiness under the eyes (also known as “bags” under the eyes) since it has anti-inflammatory properties. Cucumbers are rich in vitamins A, B1, B6, C, and D and are a good source of Magnesium, Folate, Calcium, and Potassium. Cucumbers also contain silica, which strengthens connective tissue and promotes healthy joints. Cucumbers contain three lignans: lariciresinol, pinoresinol, and secoisolariciresinol, all of which help reduce the risk of developing cancers such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer and prostate cancer.
Food Science Undergraduate Student
Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University
Christine Van Tubbergen, BS
Epidemiology Graduate Student
Colorado School of Public Health
Benjamin G. Klekamp, MSPH, CPH
Liaison, Florida Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence (Until April 2014)
Florida Department of Health
David Dekevich, MPH
Liaison, Florida Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence
Florida Department of Health
Jamie DeMent, MNS
Coordinator, Food & Waterborne Disease Program
Florida Department of Health
Everything you need to know about cucumbers, including seasonality, variations, and nutrition of these tasty summer gourds.
“Cool as a cucumber”. I obviously just had to find the roots behind this popular phrase as part of this week’s cucumber rundown, and I found a few explanations.
- The inside of a cucumber can be 20 degrees F cooler than the temperature of its’ surrounding.
- Cucumbers contain 90% water, so they have a cooling sensation.
- Some writer from the early 1600s once wrote that the women were “cold as cowcumbers” and it just sorta stuck.
Regardless, eating cucumber will make you cool, because there are just so many cool things about them.
Cucumber vs zucchini…how to spot the difference
Fun Fact: Green cucumbers are actually the unripened variation. Ripe cucumbers are yellow and have a bitter taste. But be sure not to buy zucchini, they looks pretty similar! So what’s the difference between cucumbers and zucchini?
- Cucumbers have a cold, waxy, bumpy exterior and are best eaten raw (and are technically a fruit…but we’re calling it a vegetable in Ingredient of the Week terms)
- Zucchinis have a rough, dry exterior with a tiny stem and are best eaten cooked (and they actually are technically vegetables)
Variations of cucumber
There are three main variations of cucumbers that are cultivated today.
Slicing Cucumbers: The green cucumbers we eat fresh. In North America these are long and have a thick skin, while in other countries these can be small with a delicate skin. Within this category are American Slicing Cucumbers and English Cucumbers. The American Cucumbers have a slight bulge in the middle and contain more seeds, while the English Cucumbers are long, thin, and have few seeds. You may find the English Cucumbers shrink-wrapped to preserve moisture content.
Pickling or Gherkin Cucumbers: Bred specifically for pickling, these guys are more uniform in shape and length. These will often be shorter and have small bumps over the skin.
Burpless Cucumbers: As the name implies, these are bred to prevent gas. They have a thin skin, very few seeds, and a sweeter taste. You may find these shrink-wrapped in the grocery, separate from your slicers.
How to store cucumbers
Keep cucumbers in a plastic bag in the fridge for about a week. American Cucumbers from the grocery typically have a wax coating to retain moisture. English Cucumbers and cucumbers you may find at a farmer’s market do not, so these will lose moisture faster and should be wrapped in plastic wrap. You can also pickle the cucumbers, using either a shorter slicing or a pickling cucumber.
Best cucumber recipes
Here are some of our favorite cucumber recipes!
- Cucumber Sushi Rolls
- Kimchi Bibimbap
- Tropical Cucumber Smoothie
- Greek Salad Sushi Rolls
Cucumber Nutrition Information
per 1 8-inch cucumber (301g)
- Cucumber Calories: 45
- Carbohydrates: 11g
- Fiber: 2g, 6% Daily Value (DV)
- Protein: 2g
- Fat: 0g
- 62% DV of Vitamin K: A fat-soluble vitamin that allows for activation of enzymes in the clotting cascade, which is responsible for blood clotting. Also builds bone by modifying osteocalcin so that it may bind calcium, thus building the bone matrix.
- 14% DV of Vitamin C: A water-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant to fight against potentially damaging free radicals (molecules with unshared electrons that float around wreaking havoc) and an important cofactor in collagen synthesis.
- 13% DV of Potassium: A key mineral and electrolyte involved in countless processes, including healthy nervous system functioning and contraction of the heart and muscles.
- 12% DV of Manganese: A trace element that plays a role in healthy brain and nervous system function.
- 10% DV of Magnesium: A mineral that plays a large role in bone formation and maintenance in addition to being a part of over 300 reactions within the body.
Cucumbers FAQs: Everything You Need To Know
The Answers To Your Top 10 Cucumber Questions
Whether you love snacking on them or you’re adding them to your meal, cucumbers are a delicious way to add a refreshing crunch to your day.
Every day, people ask us dozens of questions about the Cucumbers that we grow in our greenhouses—and our experts are here to answer! Below you will find the answers to the Top 10 Cucumber questions that people ask us most frequently. Read the FAQs below and wonder no more!
What are the health benefits of Cucumbers?
One of the best health benefits of Cucumbers is their water content. Since Cucumbers are made up of over 90% water, they are extremely hydrating! This means that eating a Cucumber on a hot summer day can keep you energized and refreshed, and is almost as hydrating as drinking your recommended eight glasses of water per day!
Along with being high in water content, Cucumbers are also low in calories. This means that if you are trying to fill yourself up with healthy plant-based foods, Cucumbers are an excellent option that doesn’t result in high calorie intake!
What vitamins and minerals are found in Cucumbers?
Cucumbers are high in many essential vitamins and nutrients.
In terms of vitamins, Cucumbers are loaded with vitamin K, an essential vitamin for the blood-clotting process. Cucumbers also have a healthy dose of vitamin A and vitamin C, which help maintain healthy skin, vision, neurological function, and bones.
Cucumbers also contain a healthy dose of many nutrients, Phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and potassium are four of the most prominent nutrients found in Cucumbers. These four nutrients are essential for health and wellness, including bone health, a functioning immune system, and a strong heart.
Are there different varieties of Cucumbers?
Many different varieties of Cucumbers exist all over the world, but our Cucumber growers only grow a small number of varieties in the greenhouse. These varieties exist within two categories – Long English Cucumbers and Mini Cucumbers. Long English Cucumbers are considered the classic Cucumber, whereas Mini Cucumbers look the same as Long English – just in a miniature, snackable form!
Have you ever seen a Field Cucumber? These Cucumbers look very different from, for example, a Long English Cucumber, for many reasons. One of the biggest reasons is because they are a completely different variety, and all varieties will have a different appearance, texture, and even taste, from one another. Field Cucumbers are also grown in a completely different environment from the Cucumbers grown in greenhouses. Because Field Cucumbers are grown in – you guessed it! – a field, they are exposed to outdoor elements that will affect their appearance, taste, and texture.
What is the best way to store Cucumbers to keep them fresh?
The best way to store Cucumbers and keep them fresh is by placing them in your fridge, preferably in a crisper without any other fruits. Although putting them in the fridge will keep your Cucumbers from going bad, it is important to note that the flavor may change.
It is also very important to keep your Cucumbers in their vacuum-sealed plastic wrapping until you are going to eat them. Since Cucumbers are made up of over 90% water, the moisture in a Cucumber needs to be retained to keep it from going limp and rotting. By keeping the plastic wrapping on your Cucumber, you are helping it retain its water content, and thus are keeping it fresher longer!
To help keep Cucumbers fresher longer, also make sure the plastic packaging on the Cucumber is dry before putting it in the fridge – excess water can lead to a spoilt Cucumber.
How long does it take Cucumbers to grow?
The amount of time it takes to grow Cucumbers in a garden is very different than in a greenhouse. This is due to a host of factors, but the main reason is that the growing conditions in these two environments are extremely different from one another.
Even in a greenhouse, the time of year still determines the length of time It takes for a Cucumber to grow.
In the summer months, it only takes 10 days for a Cucumber to grow from flower to harvest!
In the winter months, it still only takes 14 days for a Cucumber to grow from flower to harvest!
This quick growing season means that there are lots of greenhouse-grown Cucumbers to go around during every season of the year!
How do you know when Cucumbers are ready to pick?
We grow our Cucumbers according to Canadian growing standards, which means that there are certain characteristics that our growers look for when deciding if a Cucumber is ready to be picked. Many people assume a Cucumber’s length is the largest determining factor, but really, a Cucumber’s diameter is most important!
We use a special tool, a plastic ring, to measure for a standard diameter. If a Cucumber’s diameter matches that standard measurement, it is ready to pick!
Unlike a Tomato, picking a Cucumber has nothing to do with color! If you’re interested in reading more about when is the prime time to pick a Tomato, check out our Tomato FAQs and Facts blog.
What should you look for when choosing a Cucumber?
There are many important attributes to look for when choosing a Cucumber at the grocery store.
First, you don’t want to pick a deformed Cucumber. You want to find a Cucumber that is stiff, straight, and has minimal to no damage to the skin. A stiff Cucumber means that it is fresh and was grown under the proper conditions.
A Cucumber that is a lighter weight is also not ideal because it won’t have all the vitamins and nutrients in it that every Cucumber should contain. Finally, you want to find a Cucumber with a dark green skin – the darker the green, the more nutrients and vitamins are in the fruit!
Can you eat the skin of a Cucumber?
Many people are unsure about if it is a healthy choice to eat the skin of a Cucumber. We are here to tell you that it is one of the healthiest choices you can make!
A Cucumber’s skin is where most of its vitamins and nutrients are stored. This means that if you cut the skin off your Cucumber, you are losing most of its health benefits.
What are some of the best ways to enjoy or prepare Cucumbers?
Our on-site chef, Zach L., gave us some great tips for the best ways to enjoy and prepare Cucumbers!
- Eat Them Raw. You want to utilize and maximize the freshness of a Cucumber, so one of the best ways to eat a Cucumber is to eat it raw!
- Enjoy In Water. Cucumber water is an increasingly popular way to enjoy Cucumbers. Make sure that when you are cutting up your Cucumber for Cucumber Water, you cut it into very thin slices. Cucumber water is extremely refreshing, especially during the summer months!
- Pair With Fruit. Since Cucumbers have a more mild, neutral flavor, pairing options with Cucumbers are endless! One of the best pairing options is with other fruits, especially apples!
- Make Fresh Salads. The great part about enjoying Cucumbers in a salad is the endless ways you can cut them – you can prepare them in rounds or quarters, cut them thick or extra thin, or even spiralize them! Adding unique Cucumber slices to a salad always makes eating it more fun, exciting, and delicious!
What is the best Cucumber recipe?
We also asked Zach L. what his favorite Cucumber recipe is, and he answered that his favorite recipe is our Spiralized Mini Cucumber Salad! He really enjoys the fun colors, delicious taste, and cool texture that spiralizing gives to Cucumbers. You can find out exactly how to make this awesome dish here!
Find more produce facts by reading our frequently asked questions about Tomatoes and Bell Peppers.
Reasons For White Cucumbers: Why Cucumber Fruit Turns White
Many cucumber seeds on the market today are bred to produce white fruit. They often have the word “white” or “pearl” in their name, and the cucumbers are very similar to green varieties in flavor and texture. If you have planted green varieties and get white cucumbers instead, however, then it’s time to look for problems.
Reasons for White Cucumbers
One reason that cucumber fruit turns white is a fungal disease called powdery mildew. This problem begins on the upper surface of the fruit, and the cucumbers may look as though they have been dusted with flour. As it spreads, the entire fruit may become covered with the mold. Powdery mildew usually occurs when the humidity is high and air circulation is poor.
Treat powdery mildew by making the environment around the cucumber plant less hospitable to the disease. Thin plants so that they are spaced at a proper distance, allowing air to circulate around them. Use a soaker hose to apply water directly to the soil and avoid getting water on the plant.
Two common cucumber plant problems that cause white fruit are blanching and excessive moisture. Blanching occurs when the fruit is completely covered by leaves. Cucumbers need sunlight to develop and maintain their green color. You may be able to position the fruit so that it receives enough light. If not, snip out a large leaf or two to let the sunlight in.
Excessive moisture results in white cucumbers because water leaches nutrients from the soil. Without the nutrients needed for proper development, cucumbers turn pale or white. Correct the problem by feeding the plants with a fertilizer high in phosphorus and watering only when necessary.
Your cucumber plants can trick you into watering them too often. Water evaporates rapidly from the large, flat leaves on hot, sunny days, causing them to wilt. There may be plenty of moisture in the soil, but the roots can’t absorb it as fast as it is evaporating. To determine if the plants need watering, wait until the end of the day when the sunlight and temperatures are less intense. If the leaves revive on their own, the plant doesn’t need watering. Otherwise, it’s time to water.
Is it Safe to Eat White Cucumber?
It’s best not to eat diseased white cucumbers. Those that are white because of blanching or too much rain are safe to eat, although nutrient deficiencies may result in a significant loss of flavor.
What to Do about White Spots on Cucumber Leaves
Cuke plants stricken with powdery mildew exhibit these symptoms:
- White, powdery spots slowly spread across the tops a vine’s lower, shaded leaves.
- The spots spread to the leaves’ undersides.
- On the tops of the leaves, yellow spots surface amidst the white ones.
- The fungus may colonize the leaf stalks (petioles) and stems.
- Eventually, the infected leaves and plant tissues shrivel up and die.
Powdery mildew fungi love days and nights with temperatures in the 68 to 81°F (20-27.2°C) range. What they don’t like are bright, sunny days that raise leaf surface temperatures above 95°F (35°C). That’s because their spores can’t survive exposure to sun or high temperatures. They get around that problem by attacking your cukes’ shaded lower leaves.
Treating Powdery Mildew
As soon as the first white spots appear on your cukes, snip off the affected leaves and dispose of them in sealed plastic bags. Then mix 1 tablespoon (14.8 ml) of baking soda in 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of water, pour it into a good-quality garden sprayer and coat all your plants until the solution drips from both sides of their leaves.
Expert gardener’s tips:
- Powdery mildew spores need an acid environment. The alkaline baking soda solution neutralizes the leaves’ natural acidity.
- When removing the diseased leaves from your cukes, be sure to sterilize your pruning tools in rubbing alcohol between cuts so they don’t spread the spores.
Preventing Powdery Mildew
Because this can spread with lightning speed, prevention is always preferable to treatment. Prevention is as simple as planting the right cukes in the right place.
The simplest way to make sure powdery mildew never finds your cucumber patch is to stick with mildew-resistant cultivars. Popular choices include:
- ‘Cool Breeze,’ prized as a source of sweet pickles. Each self-pollinating plant is capable of producing up to 50 four-inch cucumbers.
- ‘Marketmore 76,’ a favorite among home gardeners. It yields 6- to 8-inch slicing cukes on 3- to four-foot vines in just 63 days.
- ‘Salad Bush Hybrid,’ with 8-inch slicing cukes on 26-inch vines. It’s the ideal for containers or small-space gardens.
Give your cukes six or more hours of daily sun, trellis them and thin their foliage regularly to reduce the amount of shade it throws. As soon as conditions favor a mildew outbreak, dowse them with the baking soda solution and repeat twice weekly until they subside.
The Cause of and Fix for Cucumber Leaves Turning White
Two strains of powdery mildew disease fungus target cucumbers. Although unrelated, they progress the same way:
- Light yellow spots surface on the older leaves and stems.
- As the spots grow, powdery white spores start to spread over them.
- Infected leaves grow dull and often wilt in the heat of the day.
- Finally, they turn grayish-brown, dry up and fall off.
Powdery mildew doesn’t directly affect cuke fruit. But if a vine loses too many leaves, decreased photosynthesis may affect the size of your harvest.
Powdery mildew thrives in:
- Temperatures between 75°F and 85°F (23.9°C and 29.4°C)
- Humidity between 80 and 90 percent
- Dry weather
- Inadequate sun — less than the 5 hours of daily sun cukes need.
Powdery Mildew Prevention
Powdery mildew can be difficult to eradicate. Your best course is to remove and dispose of the infected plants and debris. Then follow these preventive practices:
Choose Mildew-Resistant Cukes
Replacing infected plants with with mildew-resistant varieties significantly reduce the chances of a repeat attack. Some popular choices:
- ‘Eureka’ produces table-ready, deep-green fruit in 57 days. Pic at 1.5 to 5 inches for pickles and at 8 inches for slicing.
- ‘Straight Eight,’ a vining cuke ready to harvest in 60 days. Pick the fruit at 2 to 4 inches for pickles, or at 8 inches for slicing.
- ‘Jackson Supreme,’ a compact, 20-inch pickling cuke produces two cukes from every node. It’s ready for picking in 52 days.
Provide Sun and Space
Select a replanting site with 5 or more hours of daily sun.Space sprawling cukes 6 feet apart. Allow 3 feet between link u=cucumber-trellis]trellised ones.
Remove Excess Foliage
As your plants grow, remove just enough foliage to let sunlight reach the lower leaves; shade from the upper ones makes them more prone to mildew.
The Baking Soda Solution
As soon as the humidity and temperature favor mildew, spray your cukes with an organic solution of 1 part milk to 9 parts water. Apply it on a sunny day and repeat every two weeks until the conditions subside.