Cucumis sativis

The genus Cucumis is in the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae, and includes at least two species valued by the ancient Romans for food: cucumber (Cucumis sativus,) and muskmellons (C. melo). Plant remains of unidentified species of Cucumis were found in Pompeii and could have been cucumber or melon. The ancient naturalist, Pliny the Elder, tells us in his Natural History, that Emperor Tiberius loved cucumbers and had 

“raised beds made in frames upon wheels, by means of which the cucumbers were moved and exposed to the full heat of the sun; while, in winter, they were withdrawn, and placed under the protection of frames glazed with mirror-stone [probably sheets of mica].”

Pliny also notes that Italian cucumbers are small [probably gherkins] and that round ones grow in Campania, the area around Pompeii. He calls the latter “melopepo”, identified by modern scholars as C. melo, a melon. Photo Credit Wikipedia

Both cucumber and melon are twining, tendril-bearing annual vines probably native to Asia. They have large coarse leaves, male and female flowers on the same plant, and a fleshy watery fruit with numerous seeds and a firm rind, called a pepo. The fruits of a melon are round, however, while those of a cucumber are cylindrical and elongated. The two species are closely related and are susceptible to many of the same diseases and pests, but do not cross pollinate.

Size: 4-7′ long vines

Light: Full sun

Soil: Rich, evenly moist, well-drained, warm

USDA Hardiness Zones: NA (annual)


By Karen