By Matthew R. March, MNRD
Polk County Extension Agent
Cucumbers are one of the most popular vegetables consumed. From topping off a fresh salad with sliced cucumbers to a sour pickle treat, cucumbers may be one of the most versatile vegetables. In fact, cucumbers are so versatile they can even be made into cucumber water, which can be a refreshing drink on a hot Texas summer day. In honor of such a common vegetable this week’s article will focus on six cucumber facts that you may not know.
Michigan and Florida lead the country in cucumber production. In 2021, Michigan produced 31.71% of the cucumbers in the United States, while Florida produced 31.67%. Michigan leads the country in cucumbers grown for pickling, while cucumber production in Florida is dominated by slicing cucumbers.
Texas produces approximately 2.5% of the total cucumber production in the United States. At 2.5%, Texas ranks 7th among states for cucumber production. In 2021, Texas produced 37,100,000 pounds of cucumbers. Fort Worth-based Best Maid Pickles has been pickling cucumbers in Texas since the early 1930s. Cucumber fields in west Texas produce over 60% of the pickles Best Maid sells.
Cucumbers belong to the cucurbit family of vegetables and are related to other cucurbits like pumpkins, zucchini, summer squash, butternut squash, winter squash, watermelon and cantaloupe. It is important to know vegetable families because you should avoid growing related vegetables in the same location for at least 2 years. This cultural management practice of crop rotation will reduce insect and disease pressure.
The main difference between pickling and slicing cucumbers is pickling varieties have thinner skins, black spines, are shorter in length, and thicker around. While the characteristics of pickling cucumber varieties makes a better pickle, pickling varieties can be eaten fresh. The same is true with slicing varieties of cucumbers. They are best fresh but can be pickled.
Cucumbers do not need to be grown on a trellis. In fact, cucumbers can grow just fine on the ground with vines stretching out six to eight feet. Reasons for growing cucumbers on a trellis are it decreases space requirements, helps with fungal and other diseases on the cucumber by growing it above the wet ground and makes for straighter cucumbers.
Cucumbers produce more male than female flowers. Male flowers bloom first and appear before the female flowers. For this reason, an abundance of flowers does not necessarily mean an abundance of cucumbers. Many times, a vine can have all male flowers and no female flowers ready to be pollinated.
Cucumbers may be one of the most versatile vegetables consumed in the United States. Next time you are enjoying a pickle, cucumber water, cucumber with ranch, or maybe even cucumber salad with friends you can entertain them with some interesting cucumber facts.