Professor Scarecrow Cucumbers


Types History Production Shipping Nutrition
Vocabulary Quiz

Types

The North Carolina Vegetable Growers Association represents many different types of vegetables. One of these is the cucumber. There are two basic types of cucumbers grown in North Carolina. These are slicing or fresh market cucumbers and pickling cucumbers. Examples of pickling cucumber varieties include: Calypso, Johnston, Raleigh, Transamerica, Royal, Regal and Fancipak. Examples of slicing cucumber varieties include: Centurian, Dasher II, Guardian, General Lee, Marketmore 76, Poinsett 76 and Revenue.

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History

The cucumber is believed to be from India originally. It was brought to North Carolina sometime in the mid-1500's. Cucumbers were probably brought to North America by the Spaniards who then taught Native Americans how to grow
European vegetables.

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Production

Cucumbers Cucumbers
Cucumbers are used in only one of two ways. They are eaten fresh like in salads, or they are pickles. Originally, people used to only eat the cucumbers fresh. It wasn't until later that people discovered that putting cucumbers into vinegar would cause them to turn to pickles. They were a big hit, because people could then enjoy cucumbers all year long. This was important because long ago people did not have refrigeration and could not store fresh produce throughout the year. Pickling allowed people to use cucumbers during the winter months.

Technology has affected the cucumber industry. Today, cucumbers can be planted and harvested by machines, however in North Carolina nearly all of the crop is harvested by hand. Cucumbers can now be grown inside a greenhouse whereas before they used to always be grown in the field. Before technology, there was no way to slow the ripening process, so that people had to enjoy the harvest quickly before it would spoil. Today, Cucumbers are quickly cooled after they are picked to slow the ripening process.

People are eating more cucumbers than ever before. This is because people are more health conscious than they have been in the past. This means that people are turning to salads and vegetables more and more for meals and for snacking.

With it's popularity, growers are developing new varieties of cucumbers that will produce a better quality cucumber and will grow more in less space. This is so that if a field used to produce 100 cucumbers it will now produce 200 cucumbers that are even better than the original 100. These new varieties would also be able to resist diseases better than the old varieties.

Cucumbers can be grown all across North Carolina. Most of them are grown near the Coast and less of them are grown in the Mountains. This is because cucumbers like the well-drained soil of the Coastal region.

There are both spring and fall crops of pickling cucumbers. During cucumbers' growing season of May through October, they prefer sunny weather with some rain. They like the temperature during the day to be between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The seedlings are planted when the soil is 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit two inches below the surface.

After the danger of frost has passed and the soil warms up to the right temperature, seedlings are then planted. It takes about eight days for sprouts to appear. Cucumbers take awhile to grow to their proper size and should be ready to harvest in about 55 to 65 days.

The soil for cucumbers must have the right amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to grow well. The soil should also be well-drained. Cucumbers do not like to have water bunch up around them. This is why cucumbers are planted on raised beds or rows to allow excess water to drain away from the plant.

Cucumbers should also not be planted where they were planted the year before. This is because as cucumbers grow they are sprayed with herbicides to prevent weed from growing. The herbicides will leave a residue or leftover matter in the ground which is not good for young cucumbers.

Besides herbicides, tractors are used in cucumber production. Herbicides and insecticides are applied with hand sprayers. This is to keep weeds from growing and using up the crops nutrient supplies and to keep bugs and other pests from damaging the crop.

Once cucumbers reach the right size, they are ready to be harvested. As soon as cucumbers are picked they can be graded by size and sorted either in the field or at the packing shed. After being sorted by size slicing cucumbers are washed and waxed to prevent moisture loss and packed in waterproof cardboard cartons. These cucumbers are then placed in hydrocoolers at 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit and then stored at 50 degrees and 95% humidity before being shipped to produce buyers. This process keeps the cucumbers fresh longer than if they were stored at room temperature. Pickling cucumbers are sorted by size and sent to processor to made into pickles.

Grading is done by state officials from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. State officials grade cucumbers using USDA guidelines that all cucumber growers in the United States must follow. These officials select random cucumbers and grade them. This is then applied to the crop. Officials check for food protection and quality. The samples are inspected for size, grade, defects, shape and color. The grades for cucumbers are U.S. Fancy, U.S. Extra 1, U.S. 1, U.S. 1 Small, U.S. 1 Large, U.S. 2.

You probably usually find cucumbers in the produce section and pickling cucumbers in jars at your local grocery store. Before they arrive there though, fresh cucumbers are packaged in 1 1/9 bushel cartons or boxes to be shipped from the farm or distributor to the store.

When cucumbers are moved from one place to another, they are shipped in refrigerated trucks. This is to maintain their quality and to prevent them from spoiling. Before trucks, people used to transport cucumbers in a horse and wagon and then by railroads.

Today, when cucumbers leave the farm they go to various stores and restaurants in North Carolina. Sometimes though, they are sold outside of the state. Fresh cucumbers are exported to Canada and cucumbers that are already processed into pickles are shipped worldwide.

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Nutrition

Cucumbers are a great choice for snacking. They are perfect when sliced for salads, dips, spreads and side dishes. They fall into the Vegetables group of the Food Pyramid. People should try to eat three to four servings of vegetables everyday. Cucumbers taste great and are fat-free, cholesterol-free and sodium-free. They also contain Vitamin C.

When you go to buy cucumbers at your local grocery store, make sure to select firm, well-shaped cucumbers. Do not pick ones that are yellowish, soft or withered looking. Try to also check the label. All cucumbers are required by the NCDA&CS to carry a label. The label will say cucumber on it and tell you the size/grade, the weight, and the name of the company who packed it.

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Vocabulary

1. herbicide: chemicals used to keep weeds from growing
2. insecticide: chemicals used to keep insects away
3. distributor: someone who delivers product

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