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Actually a fruit, cucumbers are related to the melon and squash families, and are composed of 90% water. Native to the Mediterranean, cucumbers were brought to the US by explorers in the 1500s. The fourth most popular “vegetable” in the world, cucumbers grow on a long vine and come in two main varieties, for slicing and for pickling, and in several different shapes and colors.
Pickling cucumbers are smaller and have a thinner skin, while slicing cucumbers have a thicker skin and are usually served raw with hummus or in salads tossed with other vegetables. A refreshing dish on a hot summer day is to combine cucumbers with onions and vinegar, mixed with a touch of sugar. To make pickles, the small cucumbers are soaked in brine and vinegar to ferment and preserve.
Cucumbers have so many valuable health benefits, they are often recommended by nutritionists. High in vitamin B, cucumbers also contain vitamins C, K, calcium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, manganese, potassium and magnesium, as well as anti-inflammatory and other properties which treat headaches, reduce heart disease and cancer, and improve bone-building and digestion. Snacking on cucumbers can lessen hunger pains, balance electrolytes, and keep you hydrated.
Popular in facial creams, cucumbers magically cool the blood and reduce facial swelling. Surprisingly, cucumber slices can be used on sinks and faucets to clean and remove tarnish, and shine appliances.
Cucumbers are quite sensitive to frost, so make sure to wait to plant your St. Clare Heirloom cucumber seeds until all chance of frost is past. Also sensitive to variations in moisture, water your shoots regularly during rapid growth to keep them sweet and tender. If you live in the south, plant your seeds where they will receive afternoon shade, as extreme temperatures above 90 degrees can also affect their sweetness.