Cucumbers: More than Just a Garden Food

     Summertime is here bringing in the production of tomatoes, peppers and CUCUMBERS!   The cucumber is a seasonal favorite of vegetable gardening for so many reasons, especially in August for those harvesters who live in the climate zone of 5.  It is a warm weather crop reminding us that summer is upon us and it is a popular pickled produce for snacks and sandwiches.  Another asset of cucumber is the various ways it can be prepared--pickled, sliced, diced, chopped, infused in water, peeled, in salad or seasoned with pepper.  This blog piece sheds light on other reasons why the cucumber is a summertime favorite in vegetable gardens.

ALL IN THE FAMILY   

     Cucumbers are in the cucurbits family.  This family includes watermelons, muskmelons, squash and pumpkins.   Cucurbits plants have male and female flowers that are needed to pollinate for fruit.  The pollen from the stamen of a cucumber male flower is carried into the pistil of a female flower where it meets the ovary to create fruit.  My video on cucumber pollination gives a vivid description on how the fruit is created; the University of Minnesota Extension gives an explanation on the pollination of all cucurbit plants.

BENEFITS AND COMPANIONS IN THE GARDEN

     Some benefits to growing cucumber in a vegetable garden are shading, pollen and companionship to other crops.  With their large leaves cucumber plants are able to provide shade from the sun to prevent scorching of its fruit; its leaves can also make it fun to look for fruit while harvesting.  The yellow flowers of this prolific plant are a source of beauty as well as pollen which encourages pollinators (i.e. bees and butterflies) to assist in creating fruit yields. They also grow well with other vegetables; according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac website corn, peas, beans, cabbage and lettuce are just a few crops that are great companions when grown with cucumbers.  These points highlight just a few benefits of growing cucumbers in a vegetable garden.

VARIETY OF THEM ALL

     Variety is one of the unique qualities of cucumbers.  Slicing cucumbers are good for creating flavorful salads.  Pickling cucumbers are great for soaking in unique brines of dilly, garlicky, sweet and sour flavored pickles used for snacking  and accenting sandwiches.  Container and bush varieties are good space savers for those gardeners who have limited space to grow cucumbers.  Cultivating different varieties of cucumbers is a diverse way to eat them adding flavor to your taste buds and variety to a small garden space.   

ALL IN THE MEDICINE   

     Cucumbers are not just for eating, they have amazing medicinal properties as well. Medical News Today’s website has a lot of information to offer when it comes to eating this hydrating fruit.  Do you have puffy eyes? Lay cucumber slices on them to reduce swelling.  Your water tasting bland and need to jazz it up? Cut up a cucumber with lemon and infuse in your water to detox your body.  This garden fruit has great medicinal benefits.

FOOD SECURITY

     Cucumbers are grown in the summer yet they can be enjoyed all year round through the preservation method of canning aka pickling.  Preserving is way of securing food, meaning you can have access to your summer cucumber pickles anytime-even in the winter months.  Pickling can help you keep you food for YEARS at a time, so establishing a supply would be a great to stock during the non-garden season. Also,  the brine of pickled cucumbers helps provide good flora for the digestive system which contributes to overall health.  Refer to my previous GrowAsis blog piece on pickling to learn more on the benefits of preserving foods like cucumbers.

     What are your thoughts and ideas about the cucumbers including experiences with them in your garden? 

Feel free to share pictures, videos and blogs as well to share your success and concerns.  Have a great summer vegetable gardening!