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Gerard's Herbal

Gerard's Herbal - CHAP. 340. Of Cucumbers.

CHAP. 340. Of Cucumbers.

The Kinds.

            There be divers sorts of Cucumber; some greater, others lesser; some of the Garden, some wild; some of one fashion, and some of another, as shall be declared in the following chapters.


Fig. 1328. Common Cucumnber (1)

Fig. 1329. Adder's Cucumber (2)


The Description.

            1. The Cucumber creeps alongst upon the ground all about, with long rough branches; whereupon do grow broad rough leaves uneven about the edges: from the bosom whereof come forth crooked clasping tendrils like those of the Vine. The flowers shoot forth between the stalks and the leaves, set upon tender footstalks, composed of five small yellow leaves: which being past, the fruit succeedeth, long, cornered, rough, and set with certain bumps or strings, green at the first, and yellow when they be ripe, wherein is contained a firm and solid pulp or substance transparent or through-shining, which together with the seed is eaten a little before they be fully ripe. The seeds be white, long, and flat.

            2. There be also certain long cucumbers, which were first made (as is said) by art and manuring, which Nature afterwards did preserve: for at the first, when as the fruit is very little, it is put into some hollow cane, or other thing made of purpose, in which the cucumber groweth very long, by reason of that narrow hollowness, which being filled up, the cucumber increaseth in length. The seeds of this kind of cucumber being sown bringeth forth not such as were before, but such as art hath framed; which of their own growth are found long, and oftentimes very crookedly turned: and thereupon they have been called Anguini, or Long Cucumbers.

            3. The Pear-Fashioned Cucumber hath many trailing branches lying flat upon the ground, rough and prickly; whereon do stand at each joint one rough leaf, sharp pointed, and of an overworn green colour; among which come forth clasping tendrils, and also slender footstalks, whereon do grow yellow star-like flowers. The fruit succeeds, shaped like a pear, as big as a great Warden. The root is thready.

Fig. 1330. Spanish Cucumber (4)

            4. There hath been not long since sent out of Spain some seeds of a rare & beautiful cucumber, into Strasbourg a city in Germany, which there brought forth long trailing branches, rough & hairy, set with very large rough leaves sharp pointed, fashioned like unto the leaves of the Great Burdock, but more cut in or divided: amongst which come forth fair yellow flowers growing nakedly upon their tender footstalks: the which being past, the fruit cometh in place, of a foot in length, green on the side toward the ground, yellow to the sunward, streaked with many spots and lines of divers colours. The pulp or meat is hard and fast like that of our Pumpkin.

The Place.

            These kinds of Cucumbers are planted in gardens in most countries of the world.

The Time.

            According to my promise heretofore made, I have thought it good and convenient in this place to set down not only the time of sowing and setting of Cucumbers, Musk-Melons, Citruls, Pumpkins, Gourds, and such like, but also how to set or sow all manner and kinds of other cold seeds, as also whatsoever strange seeds are brought unto us from the Indies, or other hot regions.

            First of all in the midst of April or somewhat sooner (if the weather be anything temperate) you shall cause to be made a bed or bank of hot and new horse dung taken forth of the stable (and not from the dunghill) of an ell in breadth, and the like in depth or thickness, of what length you please according to the quantity of your seed: the which bank you shall cover with hoops or poles, that you may the more conveniently cover the whole bed or bank with mats, old painted cloth, straw or such like, to keep it from the injury of the cold frosty nights, and not hurt the things planted in the bed: then shall you cover the bed all over with the most fertilest earth finely sifted, half a foot thick, wherein you shall set or sow your seeds: that being done, cast your straw or other coverture over the same; and so let it rest without looking upon it, or taking away of your covering for the space of seven or eight days at the most, for commonly in that space they will thrust themselves up nakedly forth of the ground: then must you cast upon them in the hottest time of the day some water that hath stood in the house or in the sun a day before, because the water so cast upon them newly taken forth of a well or pump, will so chill and cool them being brought and nourished up in such a hot place, that presently in one day you have lost all your labour; I mean not only your seed, but your bank also; for in this space the great heat of the dung is soft and spent, keeping in memory that every night they must be covered and opened when the day is warmed with the sunbeams: this must be done from time to time until that the plants have four or six leaves apiece, and that the danger of the cold nights is past: then must they be replanted very curiously, with the earth sticking to the plant, as near as may be unto the most fruitful place, and where the sun hath most force in the garden; provided that upon the removing of them you must cover them with some Dock leaves or wisps of straw, propped up with forked sticks, as well to keep them from the cold of the night, as also the heat of the sun: for they cannot whilst they be young and newly planted, endure neither overmuch cold nor overmuch heat, until they are well rooted in their new place or dwelling.

            Oftentimes it falleth out that some seeds are more franker and forwarder than the rest, which commonly do rise up very nakedly with long necks not unlike to the stalk of a small mushroom, of a night old. This naked stalk must you cover with the like fine earth even to the green leaves, having regard to place your bank so that it may be defended from the north winds.

            Observe these instructions diligently, and then you shall not have cause to complain that your seeds were not good, nor of the intemperancy of the climate (by reason whereof you can get no fruit) although it were in the furthest parts of the North of Scotland.

The Names.

            The Cucumber is named generally Cucumis: in shops, Cucumer: in Latin, Cucumus sativus, or Garden Cucumber: in High Dutch, Cucumen: in Italian, Concomero: in Spanish, Cogombro: in French, Concombre: in Low Dutch, Concommeren; in English, Cowcumbers and Cucumbers.

The Temperature and virtues.

            A. All the Cucumbers are of temperature cold and moist in the second degree. They putrefy soon in the stomach, and yield unto the body a cold and moist nourishment, and that very little, and the same not good.

            B. Those Cucumbers must be chosen which are green and not yet ripe: for when they are ripe and yellow they be unfit to be eaten.

            C. The seed is cold, but nothing so much as the fruit. It openeth and cleanseth, provoketh urine, openeth the stoppings of the liver, helpeth the chest and lungs that are inflamed; and being stamped and outwardly applied instead of a cleanser, it maketh the skin smooth and fair.

            D. Cucumber (saith my author) taken in meats, is good for the stomach and other parts troubled with heat. It yieldeth not any nourishment that is good, insomuch as the unmeasurable use thereof filleth the veins with naughty cold humours.

            E. The seed stamped and made into milk like as they do with almonds, or strained with milk or sweet wine and drunk, looseth the belly gently, and is excellent against the exulceration of the bladder.

            F. The fruit cut in pieces or chopped as herbs to the pot and boiled in a small pipkin with a piece of mutton, being made into pottage with oatmeal, even as herb pottage are made, whereof a mess eaten to breakfast, as much to dinner, and the like to supper; taken in this manner for the space of three weeks together without intermission, doth perfectly cure all manner of saucefleme and copper faces, red and shining fiery noses (as red as red Roses) with pimples, rubies, and such like precious faces.

            G. Provided always that during the time of curing you do use to wash or bathe the face with this liquor following.

            H. Take a pint of strong white wine vinegar, powder of the roots of Ireos or Orrice three drams, searced or bolted into most fine dust, brimstone in fine powder half an ounce, camphor two drams, stamped with two blanched almonds, four oak-apples cut through the middle, and the juice of four lemons: put them all together in a strong double glass, shake them together very strongly, setting the same in the sun for the space of ten days: with which let the face be washed and bathed daily, suffering it to dry of itself without wiping it away. This doth not only help fiery faces, but also taketh away lentils, spots, morphew, sunburn, and all other deformities of the face.

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