The cucumber, like the melon, is an annual, and being a native of warmer climates, it does not ripen in Britain, except in very favourable situations, without the protection either of a frame or a hand glass.
In the East the cucumber has been very extensively cultivated from the earliest periods, as well as most of the other species of gourd. When the Israelites complained to Moses in the wilderness, comparing their old Egyptian luxuries with the manna upon which they were fed, they exclaimed, "we remember the fish which we ate in Egypt freely - the cucumbers and the melons." Hasselquist, in his travels, states that these cooling fruits still form a great part of the food of the lower class of the people in Egypt, especially during the summer months; and that the water melon in particular, which is cultivated in the alluvial soil left by the inundation of the Nile, serves them for meat, drink, and medicine.
The cucumber of Syria was cultivated in large open fields, in which a hut was erected for the abode of the watchman, who guarded the fruit against foxes and the jackals. These fields were far away from their habitations of men; for Isaiah, speaking of the desolation of Judah, says "the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard - as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers". In India beyond the Ganges, Bishop Heber saw a man in a small shed of bamboo, watching a field of cucumbers.
The cucumber has been known in England from the very earliest records of horticulture. It was common, like the melon, in the time of Edward III; but being neglected and disused, became entirely forgotten, till the reign of Henry VIII. It was not generally cultivated till about the middle of the 17th century. There are many varieties.
Some cucumbers are cultivated for their fantastic shapes, of which the "snake" is remarkable for its great length and small diameter; but it is of no value, except for show.
summarised from an article written in 1829
Nigel Deacon, Diversity website
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