Goodness Grows In North Carolina
Cucumber Outline

Association Name Commodity History Regional Information Production
Packaging Shipping Buying Nutritional Information

I. Association Name: NC Vegetable Growers Association

A. Commodity Represented
North Carolina Cucumbers

B. Types of Commodity
There are two basic types of cucumbers grown in North Carolina; 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.

C. Is there a National Promotion Month for the Commodity? When?

Return to Menu

II. Commodity History

A. North Carolina Background
1. Is the crop originally from NC or did it originate elsewhere? Where?
The cucumber is believed to be native to India.

2. When was it brought to NC?
In the mid 1500's

3. How was it brought to NC and by whom?
Cucumbers were probably brought to North America by the Spaniards who then taught the Native Americans how to grow European vegetables.

4. Was it brought to a specific region? Is this the same region in which it is now mainly grown?

B. Uses
1. How is the product used?
Eaten fresh or pickled.

2. Has today's use changed from its original use?
Yes, we've learned how to preserve the cucumber in vinegar as pickles that can be eaten all year long.

3. If yes, how was it originally used and why was there a shift in use?
It was eaten fresh until the pickling process was discovered to maintain a food supply for the winter.

C. Industry Changes
1. How has technology changed the industry? What are some of these improvements/changes?
Cucumbers can now be planted and harvested by machines, however in North Carolina nearly all of the crop is harvested by hand. Cucumbers are quickly cooled after they are picked to slow the ripening process. Cucumbers can now be grown efficiently in greenhouses.

2. How have the uses for the product changed over the years?
See II B

3. Has consumption/use of the product increased/decreased? Why?
Increased. The general public has become more health conscious about the benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables.

D. Future Outlook
1. How is the industry changing currently?
New varieties of cucumbers are being developed to be disease resistant and to yield more cucumbers per plant.

2. Are there any future projects that would change how the industry is maintained?
The availability of new varieties will allow the grower to produce a better quality cucumber in larger quantities.

Return to Menu

III. Regional Information

A. Region
1. Where in the state is the commodity grown? (Mountains, Piedmont, Coast)
Cucumbers can be grown all across the state.

2. If more than one location, where is it the most abundant? The least abundant?
Most abundant in Coastal counties and least abundant in the Mountains.

3. Why can't it be grown in another section of the state? Or why the difference in production from area to area?
Cucumbers prefer the well-drained soils of the Coastal region.

4. When is the growing season?
May through October. There are spring and fall crops of pickling cucumbers.

B. Climate
1. What kind of weather does the commodity like?

2. Is there a specific condition the commodity needs (full sun, shade, etc.)?
Full sun with a moderate amount of rain.

3. Are there ideal temperatures the commodity needs?
Average daily temperatures of 65-75F are most favorable for growth.

C. Soil
1. What type of soil works best with this commodity? Why? Is it rich in a specific nutrient, etc.?
Well-drained, light loamy sand which contains moderate to high amounts of organic matter.

2. Is there an ideal temperature for the soil?
Cucumber seedlings are planted when soil temperatures at the 2-inch depth have warmed to 55-60F.

3. Do certain soil conditions increase crop production? If yes, what are they?
Soils must be well drained.The pH of the soil should be greater than 6.0, 6.1-6.5. Cucumbers should not be planted where cucumbers were planted the year before. Young plants are very suseptible to herbicide residues from previous crops. Soil samples should be taken to determine the proper amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to the soil.

D. Weather Conditions
1. In emergency weather conditions what precautions are taken? Are precautions usually preventative (advance) or reactive (as it occurs)?
Cucumbers are planted on raised beds or rows to allow excess water to drain away from the plant.

Return to Menu

IV. Production

A. Production Steps
1. When are seeds planted?
After the danger of frost has passed and the soils have warmed up.

2. What is the estimated time before sprouts appear?
In about 8 days, assuming adequate soil moisture and soil warmth.

3. How long generally before the crop is ready to be harvested?
55-65 days

4. Once the crop is taken from the ground where does it go? Is it stored somewhere before it is ready for use? Or does it get packaged right away? If stored, what is it stored in and why?
When picked cucumbers 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 reduce moisture loss and packed in waterproof cardboard cartons. These cucumbers are then placed in hydrocoolers at 45-50F, then stored at 50Fand 95% humidity before being shipped to produce buyers. Pickling cucumbers are sorted by size and sent to processors to be made into pickles.

B. Production Materials
1. Is there any special equipment used during the whole production process? What are they?
Tractors are used along with equipment used for pesticide application.

2. How was the production process handled before technological developments? What types of machines, if any, were used in the process?
Pesticides were applied with hand sprayers.

3. Are pesticides used in crop production? What are the most common types?
Yes. Insecticides.

C. Grading
1. Is there an inspection that the product must go through before being packaged/sold?

2. Is the inspection conducted by county, state, or national officials?
State officials inspect on a random basis for food protection and to certify quality or grade.

3. What agency is responsible for the grading/testing and setting the standards?
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture has inspectors that can certify produce at a particular grade or standard. The standards are provided by the buyer or by USDA Standards.

4. How is the grading done? Is it for each individual piece, or per field, per farm, etc.?
Representative samples of the product (ready for sale) are taken and inspected for size, grade, defects, shape and color requirements.

5. Give a basic breakdown of the scale used and what it means
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. Cucumbers are graded on their color, size, form, diameter and defects.

Return to Menu

V. Packaging

A. Is the product usually sold fresh, frozen, dried, etc.?
Fresh and as pickles after being processed.

B. If product is sold in a variety of ways what is the most common in NC?
As pickles

C. Is the product packaged? If yes, how? (bags, boxes, bottles, etc)
Yes. If product is fresh it is most often packaged in 1 1/9 bushel cartons or boxes. If product has been processed into pickles it is packages in jars.

D. Why is it done this way? Is it economical, prevents bruising, industry standard or for shipping purposes, etc.?
Industry standard

Return to Menu

VI. Shipping

A. Distribution
1. What is the most common method of distribution in your industry?
Shipped by refrigerated truck

2. Is the product sold mainly to retail, foodservice, wholesale, specialty outlets or a variety of outlets? What is the most common?
Cucumbers are sold to a variety of outlets including retail, foodservice, and wholesale. Mostly wholesale distribution to reach outlets such as grocery stores.

3. Does the product go to one place, then another before ending up on a grocery store shelf or restaurant? If yes, where does it go?
Refrigerated trucks ship product to warehouses where it is then distributed to the various locations of grocery stores and then made available to the consumer.

4. Is the commodity exported? Domestically, internationally?
Fresh cucumbers are exported to Canada and cucumbers processed into pickles are exported worldwide.

B. Transporting
1. How is the commodity normally transported (from farm to retail outlet)?
Tractor trailer truck

2. Does the transportation vehicle require special features?(Refrigeration, etc.)
The truck must be refrigerated for transporting product to retail.

3. Have methods of transportation changed over the years? (Before automobiles, etc. how was it transported?) Or has method of transportation stayed the same? And if so, how is it done?
Yes, transportation has evolved from horse and wagon and railway to refrigerated trucks.

Return to Menu

VII. Buying

A. Product
1. What is the product used for? Are there different uses?
Salads, dips, spreads and side dishes

2. When purchasing/inspecting the commodity (at the store) how do you know it is fresh?
Select firm, well-shaped cucumbers. Avoid yellowish, soft, withered cucumbers.

3. Is there a trick to buying and finding ripe/fresh product? (Smell, thumping, shaking, color etc.)

B. Labels
1. Is your product required to carry a label?

2. Is there an industry standard for the label, or is it individualized for each company/producer/grower?
Yes, Standards Division of NCDA requires certain minimal information to be provided on the package; type of product, size/grade of the product, amount and/or weight of the product, name of the company who packed the product, etc. Also, most packer/shippers individualize their packages with their own artwork, logo or design.

Return to Menu

VIII. Nutritional Information

A. Food Pyramid
1. What group of the food pyramid does the commodity fall into?

2. Is there a recommended daily allowance of this? What is it?
Three to Four Servings

B. What Nutrients are found in the commodity?
Cucumbers are fat-free, cholestorol-free and sodium-free. They also contain Vitamin C.

Return to Menu

Back to Teacher Commodity Page
AG's COOL Homepage