Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Cucumber (Cucumis sativus), a trailing annual plant belonging to the order Cucurbitaceae, the gourd, melon, and pumpkin family. It is a native of Asia, if not also of Egypt, where it has been cultivated for more than 3,000 years. Pliny records that Tiberius had cucumbers daily in both summer and winter. Its stem is rough, its leaves three to five-lobed and hairy; it has unbranched tendrils, monoecious flowers with large orange funnel-shaped corollas, sinuous anthers, and a long inferior ovary, one-chambered with three inrolled parietal placentas. The fruit is slightly spinous except in the short ovoid Russian variety. Small young fruits are pickled under the name of gherkins, and larger ones are extensively eaten as salad or cooked. The plant does best in a moist atmosphere at a temperature between 75° and 80° F. with plenty of light, so that it is generally grown in England in hot-beds; but thousands of bushels are grown for the London market in open fields at Sandy in Bedfordshire. Seeds several years old are said to produce the best plants. In Persia, Cashmere, and China, the cucumber is grown on mud-covered rafts on the lakes. The squirting cucumber, Ecbalium elaterium, an allied plant, yields the drug elaterium (q.v.).