Cucumis Sativus, a part of the gourd family. In the Middle Ages the plant was called the Cowcumber.
Many people will not eat or grow Cucumbers since they’re bitter to the taste. This is true of older varieties and results from a bitter gene which is part of the make up of Cucumbers.
Just about all the research that has been devoted to the Cucumber has been in and aimed at attempting to remove this bitterness. The result of this research has been a range of new varieties that don’t contain this bitter gene, or very little of it.
If you are harvesting bitter Cucumbers, the most likely explanation is that you are growing them incorrectly.
On no account allow your Cucumber become stressed (lack of water, for instance), they tend to bitter up.
If you grow the ideal sort of Cucumber, and maintain the plant free from whatever may check their growth then you will have perfectly healthy cucumbers that are crisp, refreshing pick-me-ups on a hot summers afternoon.
However, if you want to be on the safe side, there’s a trick for removing bitterness. If you remove 1 inch of the cucumber’s stem end and peel back the skin to a thin layer of flesh directly beneath the skin.
I have also discovered that scoring cucumbers with a fork makes the difference between faintly sour and palatable cucumbers. You can try this out yourself. Take two centre section. Cut a piece from each and flavor. You will find that the slice that has been scored is less bitter.
This is aimed at making the cucumber less bitter, however you might like sour ones, in which case grow old varieties.
In the main there are three kinds of cucumber: field or standard ones, which grow very large with a bright green colour; smaller pickling ones with a more yellowish tone to the skin; and greenhouse forced varieties, which are bred to grow fruit in somewhat lower temperatures like the UK. I find in a good summer here in Oxford I can grow all three. In cool summers the outside ones do not do so well.
You can sow cucumber seeds directly to the ground, however I would rather start my off in seed-trays and them pot them on until they are big enough to be planted out in the open or glasshouse.
I could list types here, but the best is to find out what your neighbors are growing or which plants are for sale in the community shop.
Cucumbers are very heavy feeders so grow them in enriched soil with well-rotted manure or compost. Watch out for the standard pest and cope with them.
The cucumber should be harvested frequently because otherwise they get large and seedy.
If your gardening space is limited, you can plant next to a wire fence or trellis and they’ll grow right up it. Call West Melbourne Bat Removal if any unwanted pests get into your garden!