What is Cucumber? – All you Need to Know

In this blog we’ll show you the characteristics of the cucumber (both the vegetable and the plant), the main types of cucumber, its properties, history, main producers and importers, how it is cultivated and some products made from this vegetable. Don’t miss it!   

What is the cucumber and what are its characteristics?      

Scientific nameCucumis sativus
Common nameCucumber
Place of originAsia (India)
HabitatWarm and temperate temperatures. Moist soils, ideally at sea level.
DistributionNorth America, Asia and Europe (see section on top 5 cucumber producers in the world for more information).

Characteristics of the cucumber plant  

Cucumber is the common name for both the Cucumis sativus plant and its fruit. The cucumber belongs to the cucurbitaceae family.

It is a hanging plant, better known as a climber. It consists of a very thin stem whose branches grow horizontally with the fruit at the tip. It can reach a height of 106 to 160 centimeters.  

Along with its fruits, it produces a series of small yellow flowers with 5 petals. These petals have a round shape. Its leaves have an irregular shape similar to a pentagon and have green color.

Description of the cucumber fruit  

The cucumber is an ovoid and cylindrical vegetable with a semi-smooth texture, measuring from 15 to 30 centimeters long and about 4 centimeters in diameter. It weighs approximately 250 to 400 grams.  The color that characterizes its shell is dark green and at times may have some lighter color spots. It is rather tasteless, similar to melon.

Its seeds are scattered in a large part of the fruit; so much seeds that you’ll find at least 5 seeds in each slice that you cut. The seeds measure 3 to 5 millimeters in diameter at the most and 8 to 10 millimeters in height. They are usually quite pale yellow in color.

The flesh of the cucumber has a very light yellow tone and a moist and firm texture. It’s also juicy, but this juiciness is only noticeable when you take a bite.  

Types of cucumber 

Overall, there are 7 types or varieties of cucumber:

  1. French cucumber
  2. Armenian cucumber
  3. Persian cucumber
  4. Japanese cucumber
  5. Spanish cucumber
  6. Dutch or Almeria type cucumber
  7. English cucumber

Today we’ll focus on the first five types as they are the main ones.

French cucumber  

This cucumber can measure from 20 to 30 centimeters. Its skin is dark green and unlike other varieties, it has few thorns.

It can be used fresh as an accompaniment to salads by adding dressings such as vinaigrettes to enhance its flavor since, as it often happens with the traditional cucumber, this one is also quite tasteless on its own. One of its most prominent uses is in the Andalusian gazpacho recipe in Spain.

Armenian cucumber 

This type of cucumber has a striking appearance that distinguishes it from the others because as well as being elongated it also has a wavy shape, which is why in some places it is known as snake cucumber.  

This variety also stands out for its irregular raised lines similar to striae, which can be dark or light green in color, on its external part. The inner part is yellowish in color. The Armenian cucumber is the most used for making vinegar pickles.

Persian cucumber  

This cucumber resembles the Armenian cucumber both in its external protruding lines and in its cylindrical shape. The difference is that it is smaller, not only smaller than the Armenian cucumber, but of all varieties, together with the Spanish cucumber. The Persian cucumber measures a maximum of 15 centimeters.  

It also differentiates from the Armenian in that its rind is only dark green without varying to lighter shades and it has no seeds inside, so it is easier to use it in diets that require no seeds.  

This variety is easier to grow because it adapts well and has few planting needs, for example, it can adapt to dry climates, unlike other cucumbers that require a lot of water. For this reason, it is a good alternative for harvesting in home gardens with limited resources.

Japanese cucumber  

One of the lesser known varieties and thus only found in a few markets. It is also known as “kiuri cucumber” and is sweeter than the usual common cucumber.

The Japanese cucumber is quite small and has a dark color on the outside, with a few small bumps distributed throughout the vegetable. It has a thick peel and a crunchy texture.

Spanish cucumber  

The Spanish type cucumber is not usually very long, measuring from 10 to 15 centimeters. Its appearance is darker green than the other varieties and it is quite thorny.  

Thanks to its color and size, it is known as the “short black cucumber”. It is also distinguished from the others by having a much more intense flavor and aroma.

Properties and benefits of cucumber  

Cucumber nutritional profile  

Take a look at the nutritional table of cucumber per 100g, taken from Vegaffinity.  

CompositionQuantity (gr)CDR(%)
MineralsQuantity (mg)CDR(%)
VitaminsQuantity (mg)CDR(%)
Vitamin A0.033.1%
Vitamin B10.043.3%
Vitamin B20.032.3%
Vitamin B30.360%
Vitamin B1200%
Vitamin C77.8%

5 properties of red cucumber that you should take advantage of

Ideal for diet 

The cucumber satisfies the appetite quickly and is light in calories since it contains mainly water. For this reason it is good for weight loss because its water content will help the body to get rid of substances that are not beneficial to it.

It fights liquid accumulation and eliminates intestinal waste 

This food is useful to eliminate uric acid, so it is a good food at cases of fluid retention. In addition, cucumber has laxative properties that are responsible for expelling all waste from the digestive system. Daily consumption of cucumber is also recommended to help fight kidney stones.

It has silica component  

Silica is necessary for the well-being of bones, nails, hair and other tissues such as connective tissue containing muscles, tendons, ligaments and cartilage.

It restores skin  

It is useful to heal damaged skin thanks to its caffeic and ascorbic acids; it moisturizes, reduces inflammation and relaxes the skin, often affected by the effects of pollution and aging. Because of its effects on the skin, it is also recommended for topical use in cases of psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, sunburn and acne.

It revitalizes the eyes

Cucumber is recommended when there are signs of tiredness or some eye diseases such as conjunctivitis. This vegetable can reduce the redness and eye irritation caused by this condition, thanks to its high content of water and vitamins.  

One way in which cucumber is used is sliced, putting them under the eyes in order to reduce dark circles or bags that appear under the eyes as a result of physical exhaustion.

History and origin of the cucumber 

The cucumber was first found in the tropical zones of South Asia, more specifically in India, where it has been cultivated for more than 3000 years. Over the years, its distribution and consumption spread to countries such as Egypt, where it was chosen as one of the favorite foods of the pharaohs.  

Subsequently, it reached the Greek country and the city of Rome where it gained popularity as a vegetable and for therapeutic purposes, and just as in the Egyptian empire, this food was also widely consumed by the Roman rulers. The writer Pliny mentioned that no meal of the Emperor Tiberius lacked cucumber.

The Greeks and Romans were the first to spread this vegetable throughout the European continent and then to China. The cucumber was introduced to the Americas with the arrival of the Spaniards.

Global industry of cucumber

Know the main producers and importers of cucumber in the world.    

Top 5 cucumber producers in the world   

By 2020, according to FAO, 88 million tons of cucumber were produced worldwide on an area of 2’261,318 hectares and a yield of 4.04 kilos per square meter.  

Below, let’s take a look at the 5 countries with the highest amount of cucumber tons produced:

CountryTons of cucumper produced in a year
China  72’833.027


This country usually leads the production ranking of many products and this is no exception. Its 72,833,027 tons of cucumber produced annually represent 73% of the world production of this crop, which means that 8 out of every 10 cucumbers in the world are produced in China. The Chinese cucumber cultivation area in 2020 was 1’280,203 hectares and an approximate yield of 5.73 kilograms per square meter.


This country contributes with 3.1% of the world cucumber production. Its cucumber production area was 38,246 hectares for 2020, this represents 1.7% of the hectares of this crop in the whole world.  Its production value is 628.11 million euros. It is estimated to have a production per person of 22,419 kilograms and a yield of 48,233 kilograms per hectare.


The above figure of tons of cucumber production in Russia represents an increase of 30% over the previous year (2019), resulting in 274,600 more tons of cucumber. Cucumber is one of the most cultivated vegetables next to tomato in the nation, so much so that its demand covers 90%. Russian cucumber has a production area of 40,029 hectares, with an estimated production per person of 13,569 kilograms and a yield of 53.59 kilograms per hectare.  


The amount of cucumber tons produced in Iran accounts for 2.46% of its total production in the world. The Iranian cucumber cultivation area is 40,344 hectares with a production per person of 20,881 kilograms which ironically is higher than Russia’s figures in this area and, a yield of 48,233 kilograms per hectare.


About 60% of Mexican cucumber production was distributed mainly in 3 locations: Michoacán, Sinaloa and Sonora.

Of this production, 72.3% was destined for export, the largest importer being the United States. Thanks to this figure, cucumber has become one of the foods with the highest export rate in Mexico, with a profit of 538 million dollars.

The cucumber production area in this country is 15,742 hectares, with a yield of 47.64 kilograms per hectare, and a per capita production of 7,105 kilograms.

Top cucumber importers in the world     

From 2013 to 2020, the main importers of cucumber were the ones you will see in the following table in which you’ll also find what was the import value for each country and how this evolved over time.

world cucumber imports

How is cucumber cultivated?

To grow this vegetable there are a series of requirements that must be taken into account. Below we’ll show you what they are:   


Cucumber cultivation requires soils that retain moisture and are water-receptive. It has to be planted in soft soils with a pH between 5.8 and 6.6.  


Cucumber and its plant are easily affected by low temperatures, so they can be damaged even in light frosts, therefore, the ideal temperature for planting is 18°C to 25°C and at most 32°C. In addition to growing cucumber mainly in temperate climates, these should also be humid because this vegetable has a high demand for water.

Planting method of cucumber  

Preparing the soil  

The space where the cucumber will be grown needs an adequate level of drainage and for this, it is prepared approximately one month in advance, while weeds are pulled up from the roots and the soil is plowed with lengths from 30 to 50 centimeters deep according to the size of the cucumber roots (minimum 30 centimeters).  

Seed selection  

When planting cucumbers you must keep in mind that there is not only one type of cucumber, but that this vegetable is composed of several varieties. For this reason, before sowing the cucumber, it is necessary to choose the one that best suits your tastes, either for its size or for its uses in the kitchen, for example, if it is more suitable to be used in pickles or salads.

Seed sowing

If it happens that you are looking to grow several cucumbers in one place, keep a safe distance in between crops because cucumbers grow horizontally and expand a lot. So it is best to keep a space of about 120 centimeters between each one, not only for reasons of distance, but also so that the plants do not steal water and nutrients from each other; each one can have an adequate amount of minerals.

As it is a creeping plant like the tomato, the best thing to do is to have objects to hang on, such as canes, tutors or meshes that serve as an axis and support for the stem. Leave approximately 30 centimeters deep in the hole to plant the seed.


The requirements of the cucumber regarding the illumination are to be directly exposed from 6 to 12 hours to the sunlight, together with temperate temperatures as we mentioned in the climate section. If you have warmer or colder climates than the ones we mentioned, the plant will not grow any further.


This crop needs a significant percentage of humidity in the ambient. The humidity should be between 60% and 70%, as well as sunlight, a higher or lower humidity will not favor the crop.  


It is essential to water the cucumber plant constantly because it has to always be moist. However, avoid letting humidity accumulate in the roots, as this will encourage diseases such as fungus and cause the roots to rot.

Care in cold weather  

In case the cucumber is grown in colder temperatures, it is advisable to implement measures to protect it such as using a plastic bottle cut horizontally in half and place it over the crop to simulate a greenhouse effect if frosts occur, since these can cause the fruit to freeze and die.  


You can start pruning the plant 3 to 5 weeks of growth and not immediately because you won’t allow the plant to finish developing. By pruning as instructed, you’ll make the stems gain strength to support the fruits that will grow later.

Cucumber harvest

You can harvest the cucumber about 8 weeks after planting, it will be ripe by then. If you wait longer to harvest it, it will become fibrous and will have a bitter taste and thus will not be so pleasant to eat.  The cucumber must be removed delicately so as not to damage the stem of the plant when doing so. It is also advisable to use gloves in this process to prevent the hives that can be caused by the hairs on the stems and leaves.

Cucumber post-harvest

To preserve the cucumber you must refrigerate it; you have the option of doing it with a perforated bag or without a bag, directly in its original state, just try not to leave it in the freezer, but in less cold parts of the refrigerator.  

Once refrigerated, it will last 8 to 10 days at most before spoiling.  You don’t need to eat it all at once, but you can eat, for example, half of it and store the rest without any problem by refrigerating it.  Another way you can store this food is in sweet and sour or acidic preserves to preserve it longer.

Uses and products made from cucumber

Cucumber is often eaten as a side dish in salads with or without peel or as an ingredient in some weight loss shakes.  It is eaten fresh or processed. There are also some cucumber-based products on the market, such as the ones we’ll show you below.

Industrial products made from cucumber cucumber

Cucumber gin and tonic

The original name of the well-known alcoholic drink gin and tonic comes from English. This drink is composed of tonic water and gin accompanied by ice and other ingredients such as passion fruit or cucumber. Although this mixture may seem strange, it has a refreshing touch and for this reason it is widely consumed. It is up to each person to decide in what proportion the gin and tonic water is served, it can be in half, more tonic water than gin or vice versa.

Artisanal products made from cucumber cucumber


As we had mentioned in the types of cucumber, French cucumber is often used to prepare the Andalusian gazpacho. Gazpacho is usually described as a mixture of salad and soup and can be consumed either as a meal or as a drink as shown in the picture.

Gazpacho is a type of cold soup that can be made with olive oil, vinegar, water, raw vegetables such as: tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onion and, of course, cucumber.  Some of these ingredients can be omitted depending on the taste of the person, but the cucumber in this dish is a gourmet touch given by the best chefs. This dish has Spanish origins.

gazpacho andaluz
By Tamorlan – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27116499

Cucumber sushi  

Just as you read it, we’re not talking about the traditional sushi roll that wraps seaweed around rice, seafood and some vegetables, but instead cucumber becomes the edible wrapper. It’s just a matter of piercing a thick slice of this vegetable in the middle and in the hole that remains, put the ingredients of your choice and you will have a cucumber sushi.

Cucumber mask  

You can easily make this mask by mashing the cucumber pulp and mixing it with honey and, when used, it will improve the appearance of your skin and save you a few pennies from your pocket by not having to buy the typical beauty creams. You can also create face masks with cucumber alone and use it as an astringent toner to remove the dirt and oil from your face that causes pimples and blackheads.

Medicinal uses of cucumber 

Cucumber is used as a medicine to treat some urinary conditions and promote easy digestion in the body. It is also used to alleviate some signs of wear and tear in the eyes, and in this case the traditional remedy of putting two slices of cucumber, each under one eye to relieve swelling is used. This healing property is given by the high amount of water in the cucumber that makes the skin stretch and relax.

In addition, it is advisable to use it on tired feet to restore them. In this situation, you can crush the cucumber pulp without removing the peel, leave it for about 2 hours in the refrigerator and after that it will be ready to apply on the feet.


Reading this blog, especially in the section on the history of cucumber, you can notice that this food not only has a relevant role today, but it was also considered a delicacy of gods in the Roman and Egyptian empires. You can consider yourself lucky if you consume cucumber daily and, if you do not, then we invite you to include it daily in your diet! This way you will be able to take advantage of all its uses and properties.