Cucumis sativus L. - Cucumber.
Taxonomic position.Family Cucurbitaceae Juss.
Biology and morphology.2n=14. This is a very polymorphic species. It is a monoecious plant, diclinous. Stalk length reaches 1.5 m, orbicular, orbicular-cut or cut, prostrate, branching, with simple short tendrils, with varying degrees of pubescence. Bushes with stalk's length of 20-30 cm are formed. The root is a rod and ramified, its great bulk is in an arable layer of soil. Leaves are alternate, five-bladed (blades sharp), less often integral (oval). Length can be short (it is less than 12 cm), average (12-15 cm), or long (more than 15 cm). Flowers are auxiliary, diclinous, it is rarely bisexual. Male flowers are single or in 3-5-7 floral cluster on the main stalk and axils of the first order, female flowers are solitary or in pairs on branches of the second and the subsequent orders. The corolla yellow, funnel-shaped, part is deeper than half, teeth sharp; 4 stamens have grown together in pairs and one is free. Ovary is long, pubescence. Entomophilous plant, but some forms of the cucumber are capable of producing fruits by parthenocarpy (without pollination). Fruits are various in form, size and coloring. Fruits in technical ripeness are dark green, green or light green, equally-colored or with white spots and strips. Their surface may be smooth, fine- tubercular, large-tubercular, furrowed, with thorns of different coloring. Length is from 5 up to 30 cm and more. Weight from 50 to 400 g. Transverse incision is orbicular or orbuscularly-three-edged. Pulp of the fruit is ochroleucous or pale-green. Weight of fruits when ripe reaches from 50 g up to 3-4 kg, length from 5-10 up to 80-100 cm, the form from spherical up to lengthened-cylindrical, coloring from almost white to dark brown. There may be 20-25 fruits on a plant. Seeds white, lengthened-elliptic, length from 9-10 mm up to 16-18 mm. Weight of 1000 seeds is 25-30 g.
Distribution.India is considered the native land of cucumbers. They were entered into cultivation some thousand years ago. It is believed that the cucumber appeared in Russia before the 9th century, but the first written work regarding this plant was in 1528. From the middle of the 17th century it was a widespread vegetable cultured in Russia. Species is cultivated especially widely in countries of temperate climate. In the USSR it was cultivated on an area of about 220 thousand hectares. The productivity in open ground is from 4 tons per hectare in the Volgo-Vjatskom area and up to 8-10-15 tons per hectare (up to 40) in southern areas. It is cultivated in open ground up to the 65th degree of northern latitude in the European part of Russia and until the 61st degree of northern latitude in the Asian part of Russia (Central regions of Yakutia). The basic crops are concentrated in the central areas of Russia, the Volga region, on Northern Caucasus, Ukraine, in Kazakhstan, Western Siberia.
Ecology.Species is thermophilic. The optimum temperature for germination of seeds is 26-28°C, during growth and fructification 18-30°C. If temperature is less than 20°C all stages of development are strongly decelerated, at temperatures less than 10°C growth stops, at 0°C all plants perish. It requires humidity in air and soil; in dry areas it grows on irrigation sites. Ground should be lightly sandy, loamy, and rich in organic components, with pH 6.4-7, with deposition of subsoil waters at depths of 1.5-2 m. It is photophilous, but may grow in conditions of brief shading. The plant likes short days (10-12 hours), and with daylight duration of more than 16 hours, the beginning of fructification is decelerated and productivity is reduced. Seeds are sowed directly in soil, in areas with limited heat seedlings are started with protection and transplanted to field. Under favorable conditions shoots appear 5-7 days after sowing, the first genuine leaves appear 5-8 days after shoots. Flowering for the early ripening types begins 30-35 day after shoots appear, for later ripening types; 35-45 days. Technical ripeness of fruits occurs 6-10 days after fertilization of ovary. Fructification proceeds for about 3 months. Pistillate flowers occur after male ones and appear a lot on lateral runways, therefore the runners frequently pinch out and this accelerates crop. Plants with prostrate runners are cultivated in open ground, sometimes runners are trellised which increases productivity and quality of fruits. Varieties differ by form, size, coloring, pubescence of fruit, by length of stalk, structure of the flower, biological features. Different varieties include the following: early ripening types (period from shoot appearance until the first gathering of fruits takes 32-44 days): 'Murom', 'Altayskij Rannij', 'Izjazhnyi', 'Rzhavskij'; average ripening types (45-50 days): 'Nerosimye', 'Uspeh', 'Dolzhik', 'Nezhinskij Mestnyil'; and late ripening types (more than 50 days): 'Donskoj 175', 'Pobeditel', 'Klinskij Mestnyi', 'Mnogoplodnyi'. Varieties that have been bred from hybrid seeds give the greatest crop.
Economic value.This is one of the major vegetable plants. Fruits from the condition of technical ripeness, when seed shells have not yet begun to grow coarse, are used in food; usually it is the 6-15 day time ovaries, reaching at this age the maximum length. Fruits contain the following: 95-98% water, up to 2.2% carbohydrates, fibers, about 0.5% of cindery substances (a lot of phosphorus, potassium, iron), carotin, vitamin C, pectinaceous substances and organic acids. The fruits are eaten fresh, salted and pickled. Those with 3-5 day time ovaries (3-5 cm in size) go on to salt pickling (gherkins). Fruits are also used in folk medicine and for cosmetic means.
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