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The cucumber is the edible fruit of the cucumber plant Cucumis sativus, which belongs to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae, as do melons and squash. The plant has been cultivated for 3000 years and is widely cultivated today. The cucumber plant has large leaves that form a canopy over the fruit. The vine is grown on the ground or on trellises, often in greenhouses.

The fruit, which is a vegetable in the culinary sense, is commonly harvested while still green and is eaten raw or cooked or is made into pickles. Cucumbers have only small amounts of nutrients. Pickles are more nutritious than fresh cucumbers because of the ingredients, especially dill, added during pickling.

Cucumbers are usually green-skinned, roughly cylindrical, elongated, with tapered ends, and may be as large as 30 cm long and 5 cm in diameter. Cucumbers grown to be eaten fresh (called slicers) and those intended for pickling (called picklers) are similar. Slicers grown commercially for the U.S. market are generally longer, smoother, more uniform in color, and have a tougher skin. Slicers in other countries are smaller and have a thinner, more delicate skin. Picklers are generally shorter and thicker.

Scientific classification

Kingdom:Plantae (plants)
Superivision:Spermatophyta (seed plants)
Division:Magnoliophyta (flowering plants, angiosperms)
Class:Magnoliopsida (dicots)
Family:Cucurbitaceae (cucumber family)
Genus:Cucumis[?] (melons)
Species:Cucumis sativus (garden cucumber)

External links:

  • Plant profile (http://plants.usda.gov/cgi_bin/topics.cgi?earl=plant_profile.cgi&symbol=CUSA4) at the Plants Database (http://plants.usda.gov/ (http://plants.usda.gov/)) - shows classification and distribution by US state.

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