Cucumbers contain silica, a trace mineral, which we need for healthy connective tissue (bone, ligaments, tendons, cartilage and muscle). Silica also encourages healthy skin. Some use it topically for swelling under the eyes, dermatitis and soothing sunburn. Cucumbers are 95 percent water by weight, so eating is a good way to hydrate. Cucumber adds some fiber to the diet, aiding digestion. With vitamins A and C, cucumber helps the immune system and the liver disarm free radicals that cause cellular damage.
Vitamin and Mineral Content
Vitamins – C, A and B9 (Folate)
Minerals – Molybdenum, Potassium, Manganese and Magnesium
With lower nutrient concentrations, cucumbers are good, but not major, contributors. The magnesium, potassium and fiber may help reduce hypertension. The fiber and water helps avoid indigestion.
How to Grow
Cucumbers grow best in a sunny spot with rich soil. Amend the site with lots of compost or planting mix to achieve a pH close to 6. Sow seeds twice in the year for two harvests. The first one is in small pots indoors in early spring. Place two seeds to a pot at least 3 inches in diameter. Thin down to the strongest seedling if crowding occurs. Keep in a sunny location with moist soil. They should be ready to plant in late spring. Place about 2 feet apart. Make another sowing outdoors about 2 feet apart. If still cold in your area, put cutoff plastic bottles over the sowings to protect from night cold. You can grow cucumbers on the ground or up along sticks. Making a thin tepee with strong sticks looks cool, and it also keeps cucumbers off the ground and reduces their risk for disease, rot or slug infestation. If you plant them in the ground, space them out a little more than 2 feet, as they will grow out like vines. To keep them attached to the sticks as they grow, regularly tie them to the sticks with thick string. When the seedlings are about a foot tall, mulch with some organic matter. Also, trim back the side shoots to encourage growth upward. Pinch the tops of cucumber plants when they reach the top of the tepee. Keep soil moist. Starting roughly half way through growing season, begin fertilizing every few weeks. To produce more cucumbers, harvest cucumbers when young and plant still contains blooms. Failing this, entire plant stops producing.
Popular pests of the cucumber bush include slugs, aphids, and cucumber beetles. To deter slugs, embed a cup of beer in the soil. Slugs and snails fall in and drown. If the plant is big enough and aphids are infesting, spray them off with a strong stream of water. Otherwise, plant French marigolds to attract their predators (hover flies, ladybugs). Inspect all plants and handpick any cucumber beetles when you notice them. You can also wait until later in the season to plant when beetles are on the wane. If they are especially prevalent, you can place row covers over them or, as a last resort, spray with insecticide.
Cucumbers are mostly water, so letting the plant dry out is not an option. During dry weather, water deep into the soil.