Cucumis Sativus, a part of the gourd family. In the Middle Ages the plant was called the Cowcumber.
Lots of people won’t eat or grow Cucumbers because they’re bitter to the taste. This is true of older varieties and results from a bitter gene that’s part of the make up of Cucumbers.
Just about all the research that’s been devoted to the Cucumber has been in and aimed at attempting to remove this bitterness. The end result of this research has been a host of new varieties which don’t contain this bitter gene, or hardly any of it.
If you are harvesting bitter Cucumbers, the most likely explanation is that you’re growing them incorrectly.
On no account let your Cucumber become worried (lack of water, by way of instance), they are inclined to bitter up.
If you grow the right kind of Cucumber, and keep the plant free from anything that might check their growth then you will have perfectly healthy cucumbers which 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 the skin back to a thin layer of flesh directly under the skin.
I have also found that scoring cucumbers with a fork makes the difference between faintly sour and palatable cucumbers. You can try this out yourself. Take two center section. Cut a slice from each and taste. You’ll discover that the slice that’s been scored is less bitter.
All 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 types 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 marginally lower temperatures like the United Kingdom. I find in a fantastic summer here in Oxford I will grow all three. In cool summers the exterior ones don’t do so well.
You can sow cucumber seeds straight into the ground, but I would rather start my off in seed-trays and them pot them on till they are large enough to be planted out in the open or glasshouse.
I could list types here, but the best is to see what your neighbors are growing or which plants are for sale in your local shop.
Cucumbers are extremely heavy feeders so grow them in enriched soil with well-rotted manure or compost. Watch out for the usual pest and cope with them.
The cucumber ought to be harvested frequently because otherwise they become 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.