Where Do Cucumbers Grow? & The History of Cucumbers

In 2017 there were 84 million metric tonnes of cucumbers produced worldwide. A metric tonne is 1,000 kg or about 2,200 lbs. China accounted for 77% of global production. The second highest producing country Iran produced just over 2% and the United States produced almost 1%.

What Countries Do Cucumbers Grow In?

This is a cucumber harvester making quick work of a cucumber field. Cucumbers grown in fields are commonly pickling cucumbers while cucumbers grown in greenhouses are almost always fresh use cucumbers.

In 2017 China produced nearly 65 million metric tonnes of cucumbers making them the largest producing country of cucumbers by a huge margin. The country with the second most cucumbers produced is Iran with around 2 million metric tonnes of cucumber produced.

Rounding out the top ten cucumber producing countries is Russia, Turkey, United States, Mexico, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Spain, and Japan.

Approximately 125,000 acres of cucumbers are planted in the US. Corn is America’s largest crop and is grown on 90 million acres. Soybean is next and is planted on about 85 million acres.

What States Do Cucumbers Grow In?

Florida is the leading state for production of fresh cucumbers while Michigan is the #1 producer of cucumbers grown for pickling. Florida is the 3rd most producer of cucumbers grown for pickles. About 30 of the 50 states grow cucumbers. Other large producers are Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Georgia.

In south Florida growers can plant cucumbers anytime from September to April. Using a double crop system and growing a member of the solanaceae family like peppers and tomatoes first and cucumbers next.

Cucumbers don’t have the same pests as vegetables from the solanaceae family. Cucumbers take less input of fertilizer and benefit from what’s leftover from the first crop. This article goes in depth to cucumber growing in Florida.

Greenhouse Vs. Field Grown Cucumbers

There are more cucumbers grown in fields than in greenhouses. Cucumbers grown in greenhouses are for fresh use. The English cucumber is a commonly grown greenhouse variety and if you see a long skinny cucumber wrapped in plastic in the store that’s what it is.

Cucumbers grown in greenhouses are trained up trellises or twine and regularly pruned. In fields cucumbers sprawl out and cover the ground in foliage.

Hand harvesting, setting up trellises, training the plants up them, and then taking trellises down at the end of the year all contribute to some farmers thinking it cost prohibitive to growing fresh use cucumbers in the field. I’d guess the biggest cost factor for farmers is having access to a cucumber machine harvester or not.

To learn more about how cucumber plants grow and how they are grown commercially check out “How Do Cucumbers Grow?“.

Where Do Cucumbers Come From?

Cucumbers originate in India some 4,000 years ago. They are seen in texts and records of ancient civilizations. Cucumbers are mentioned in the bible as being readily available for all in ancient Egypt.

We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely/the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic.

Numbers11:5

The cucumber made its way onto Roman plates and notably Emperor Tiberius was said to have required cucumber as a part of his diet every day. Romans employed raised beds on wheels that they would take in during the winter and cover them with translucent planes of silicates. This is similar to cold frames we use today.

In the 8th and 9th century Charlemagne had cucumbers grown in his gardens. Cucumbers were introduced to England during the reign of King Henry VIII.

Around the same time that King Henry VIII had cucumbers growing in England, Columbus made his first voyage to the Americas and trade between the continents opened up.

After making it over to the new world cucumbers gained in popularity and were spread further. In 1876 Henry J. Heinz added pickles to his processed foods/condiments product list and the pickle became a commonly consumed food in America.

Cucumbers contain compounds known as cucurbitacins that make the cucumber have a bitter taste. This bitter taste is a defense system for the vegetable making it less appetizing and allowing the fruit and seeds inside to fully mature. Immature seeds are not viable. Throughout the plants domesticated history it has been bred to be less bitter.

Facts About Cucumbers

  • Cucumbers can cure bad breath. Forget carrying gum and mints, carry sliced cucumbers around and when you want to fix your breath put a slice of cucumber on the top of your mouth. Supposedly the phytochemicals in the cucumber will kill the bad breath causing bacteria in your mouth.
  • No whiteout, no worries. The waxy outside of a cucumber can erase pen writing by rubbing it on the ink.
  • Honey bees are often transported to cucumber farms for help in ensuring pollination and fruit setting. Bees used to pollinate crops will typically move from field to field for 4-6 months of continuous work. After consuming only 1 or 2 types of pollen from the fields the bees are working in they need to be taken home where they can consume pollen from diverse sources which improves their health and gets them ready to get back to work.
  • Sliced cucumber can give some relief to sunburnt skin.
  • Rubbing a sliced cucumber on a bathroom mirror will prevent it from fogging up when you take a hot shower.
  • Cucumbers contain sugar, B vitamins, and electrolytes that can help prevent or ease a hangover.
  • I don’t know about this one but it’s rumored that you can use a sliced cucumber in place of WD-40 to end squeaks and creakiness in metal joints.
  • Cucumbers are the most water dense vegetable and is made of 95% water.
  • The phrase “in a pickle” was coined by Shakespeare in his play The Tempest.
  • During WWII the US government designated 40% of the nations pickle production for GI’s ration kits.

If you have any thoughts or comments on how cucumbers grow please share them below.

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