The cucumber is a widely cultivated plant in the gourd family Cucurbitaceae, which includes squash, and in the same genus as the muskmelon.
The cucumber is a creeping vine that roots in the ground and grows up trellises or other supporting frames, wrapping around ribbing with thin, spiraling tendrils. The plant has large leaves that form a canopy over the fruit.
The fruit is roughly cylindrical, elongated, with tapered ends, and may be as large as 60 cm long and 10 cm in diameter. Cucumbers grown to be eaten fresh (called slicers) and those intended for pickling (called picklers) are similar. Cucumbers are mainly eaten in the unripe green form. The ripe yellow form normally becomes too bitter and sour.
Cucumbers originated in India. Large genetic variety of cucumber has been observed in different parts of India. It has been cultivated for at least 3,000 years in Western Asia, and was probably introduced to other parts of Europe by the Romans. Records of cucumber cultivation appear in France in the 9th century, England in the 14th century, and in North America by the mid-16th century.
In the United States, consumption of pickles has been slow, while consumption of fresh cucumbers is rising. In 1999, the consumption in the U.S. totaled 3 billion pounds of pickles with 171,000 acres (690 km2) of production across 6,822 farms and an average farm value of $452 million. According to FAO, China produced at least 60% of the global output of cucumber and gherkin in 2005, followed at a distance by Turkey, Russia, Iran and the United States.