The cucumber is native to India where it has been grown for at least 3,000 years. Archeological evidence suggests that they may have been cultivated as early as 9750 B.C.
The first wild cucumbers may have been C. Hardwickii a small, very bitter native of the Himalayas. This bitterness, which can affect domestic cucumbers to a lesser extent, is caused by Cucurbitacins, a terpene derivative. Cucurbitacins repels insects.
Newer hybrids contain less of these compounds and tend to be less bitter.
The Egyptians savored cucumbers dipped in brine and drank "cucumber water" as a weak liquor. The vegetable was often taken on caravans as a source of water.
Romans served them raw or boiled with oil, vinegar and honey. The emperor, Tiberius ordered them as a daily part of his meals and his gardeners grew them out of season in hothouses.
Cucumbers arrived in England with Kathryn of Aragon, first wife of King Henry VIII, who demanded them on her Spanish salads.
Columbus brought cucumbers to the Americas and planted them in an experimental garden in 1493. They have flourished in American gardens for centuries since.
They have been cultivated world wide, in space as an experiment by Russian Cosmonauts, and in an Ontario nickle mine as a Canadian government sponsored project.
Grown in high temperatures with inadequate water, fruits develop a bitter flavor. Most of the bitterness is in the inch of fruit closest to the stem and near the skin. Some new varieties contain a gene that eliminates all bitterness even under stress.