Cucumis Sativus

Pipino or cucumber is a summer vegetable that grows on a vine. It has a thirst-quenching quality much like our native jicama and radish. That is why it is one of my favorite vegetables. It is crisp and crunchy in salads and by itself soaked in seasoned vinegar or pickled.

I can only think of two varieties of cucumber in my part of the country,the green and the yellow varieties. They are what you refer as the common cucumbers. They are the slicing type and the seeds are more prominent than the Japanese variety. The fruits are plump and rounded and about 4 to 6 inches long.

Before planting the seeds in the garden, the soil needs to be amended with lots of compost and manure. It is best if planted direct or in situ because they do not transplant very well. Plant the seeds in hills or in rows 2 – 3 inches apart and at least 1 – 2 inches deep. They are also shallow rooted so it will need constant watering in order for it to be productive. Cucumbers are also high feeders so a side dressing of a balance fertilizer is needed especially when their dainty yellow flowers are showing. Bees are needed for pollination so try not spray any chemicals on the plants.

Trellis made of bamboo is good for the cucumbers vine. Training them vertically is good for aeration. Pick a sunny location in your backyard or garden for this vegetable because it loves the heat of summer. Mulching is also good for moisture retention and preventing weeds to grow.

There is a male and female flower in cucumbers, just like its relatives squash and gourd. There will be a small fruit in a female flower so maybe you can hand pollinate them just like what I do with my squash flowers. I always help along in the pollination by picking the male flower and putting it in the inside of the female flower (pistil). I have 99.9% success rate doing the hand pollination in my squash or pumpkin.

The cucumber plants will start to flower within 45-65 days after sowing. The fruits need to be picked as soon as they are 4-6 inches long otherwise they will mature and the production will slow down or stop entirely.

Nutrition wise, cucumber’s high water content makes it a diuretic. It has potassium, Vitamin C and folic acid if eaten unpeeled. Some uses it to relieve sunburn. Arthritis sufferers can also benefit from cucumbers because it helps eliminate uric acid. Beauty enthusiasts uses cucumbers to nourish skin and hair. Cosmetic companies are including them in the toiletries we use everyday.

I just like to eat them as is or with vinegar seasoned with salt, sugar and pepper. My mom will also include onions to this or make a salad with cucumbers as the main ingredient. I once tasted a tuna sandwich with cucumbers and it is refreshingly delicious.