(Cucumis sp. - Family Cucurbitaceae)
Cucumber (Cucumis sp. -- Family Cucurbitaceae), is among the most familiar salad vegetables worldwide and its origins are traced to northern India, where it has been cultivated for over 3,000 years. The first record of the cucumber comes from Mesopotamia around 2000 BC while the Romans, during the 1sit century, cultivated it in baskets or raised beds mounted on wheels so the plants could be moved around as the sun moved. The cucumber did not reach Europe until the Middle Ages, and was first cultivated in greenhouses in 19th century England. Early varieties had a bitter taste and were served boiled with oil, vinegar, and honey.
Today, cucumbers are grown almost everywhere with China holding the lead in production followed by Russia, Japan, Turkey, the US, Romania, and Holland. In Cyprus the main type grown is what came to be known as ‘mini cucumbers’ with a length of around 15cm long and weighing around 150gr. They are regarded as sweeter and more juice than the standard cucumber and the are gradually gaining increasing popularity in world markets.
Fresh mini cucumbers should be firm, well-shaped, and bright green in color. They may be kept about a week in the refrigerator crisper or two weeks if packed in cling-film. Avoid storing cucumbers with fruits that produce the natural ripening agent ethylene, such as apples, pears and bananas.
Generally, cucumbers are best eaten raw in salads, but a good many are used to make pickles of all kind. They are high in carbohydrates, vitamin C, iron, and potassium. Cucumbers can hold up to thirty times its own weight in water, compared to the fiber in wheat bran which can hold only four to six times its own weight. Because of this, and the fact that it contains so little fiber, cucumbers are not considered a high-fiber food, despite the numerous seeds. Cucumbers do have diuretic properties. They also contain an enzyme that splits protein and cleanses the intestines. Cucumber juice is beneficial for internal inflammations, including a sore throat or kidney flare-ups. Organically grown cucumbers have the best flavor and do not need peeling. Their skins contain chlorophyll and silicon, two beneficial nutrients that are lost when the vegetable is peeled.
Production and Packing:
Cyprus grows mini cucumbers throughout the year both in polytunnels and in outdoor cultivations. Fresh cucumbers are hand picked and are carefully placed in plastic crates for transport to the pack house. Cucumbers have to be handled very carefully, since impacts and pressure can cause internal damage and temperatures below 10°C will result in chilling injury. They are packed loose in carton boxes in a liner and air shipped to destination markets for extra freshness. Depending on customer quantity requirements, road transport shipments to Europe offer an alternative lower cost possibility.