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The cucumber1 belongs to the cartilaginous class of plants, and grows above the ground. It was a wonderful favourite with the Emperor Tiberius, and, indeed, he was never without it; for he 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wheels, by means of which the cucumbers were moved and exposed to the full heat of the sun; while, in winter, they were withdrawn, and placed under the protection of frames glazed with mirror-stone.2 We find it stated, also, by the ancient Greek writers, that the cucumber ought to be propagated from seed that has been steeped3 a couple of days in milk and honey, this method having the effect of rendering them all the sweeter to the taste. The cucumber, while growing, may be trained to take any form that may be wished: in Italy the cucumbers are green4 and very small, while those grown in some of the provinces are remarkably large, and of a wax colour or black.5 Those of Africa, which are also remarkably prolific, are held in high esteem; the same, too, with the cucumbers of Mœesia, which are by far the largest of all. When the cucumber acquires a very considerable volume, it is known to us as the "pepo."6 Cucumbers when eaten remain on the stomach till the following day, and are very difficult7 of digestion; still, for all that, in general they are not considered very unwholesome. By nature they have a wonderful hatred to oil, and no less affection for water, and this after they have been cut from the stem even.8 If water is within a moderate distance of them, they will creep towards it, while from oil, on the other hand, they will shrink away: if any obstacle, too, should happen to arrest their progress, or if they are left to hang, they will grow curved and crooked. Of these facts we may be satisfactorily convinced in a single night even, for if a vessel filled with water is placed at four fingers' distance from a cucumber, it will be found to have descended to it by the following morning; but if the same is done with oil, it will have assumed the curved form of a hook by the next day. If hung in a tube while in blossom, the cucumber will grow to a most surprising length.9 It is only of late, too, that a cucumber of entirely new shape has been produced in Campania, it having just the form of a quince.10 It was quite by accident, I am told, that the first one acquired this shape in growing, and it was from the seed of this that all the others have been reproduced. The name given to this variety is "melopepo." These last do not grow hanging, but assume their round shape as they lie on the ground. A thing that is very remarkable in them, in addition to their shape, colour, and smell, is the fact that, when ripe, although they do not hang from the stem, they separate from it at the stalk.

Columella11 has given us a plan of his, by which we may have cucumbers the whole year round: the largest bramble-bush that can be procured is transplanted to a warm, sunny spot, and then cut down, about the time of the vernal equinox, to within a couple of fingers of the ground; a cucumber-seed is then inserted in the pith of the bramble, and the roots are well moulded up with fine earth and manure, to withstand the cold. According to the Greeks, there are three kinds of cu- cumbers, the Laconian, the Scytalic, and the Bœotian,12 the Laconian being the only one among them that is fond13 of the water.

There are some persons who recommend steeping the seed of the cucumber in the juice of the herb known as the "culix;"14 the produce, they say, will be sure to grow without seeds.

1 The Cucumis sativus of Linnæus.

2 "Lapis specularis." See B. xxxvi. c. 45. Coiumella, De Re Rust. B. xi. c. 3, speaks of this mode of ripening cucumber, and the fondness of the Emperor Tiberius for them.

3 Theophrastus and Columella say the same of the cucumber, and Palladius of the melon, but there is no ground, probably, for the belief. In very recent times, however, Fée says, it was the usage to steep the seeds of the melon in milk. This liquid, in common with any other, would have the effect of softening the exterior integuments, and thereby facilitating the germination, but no more.

4 Still known as the "green" or "gherkin" cucumber, and much used, when young, for pickling.

5 Probably in the sense of a very dark green, for black cucumbers are a thing unheard of.

6 He is evidently speaking of the pompion, or pumpkin, the Cucurbita pepo of Linnæus: quite distinct from the cucumber.

7 Cucumbers are not difficult of digestion to the extent that Pliny would have us to believe.

8 Fée says, it is a loss of time to combat such absurd prejudices as these.

9 This is conformable with modern experience.

10 Fée says that this is the melon, the Cucumis melo of Linnæus.

11 B. xi. c. 3. Columella professes to borrow it from the people of Mendes in Egypt.

12 Theophrastus enumerates these varieties Hist. Plant. B. vii. c. 4.

13 Theophrastus only says that the Laconian cucumber thrives better with watering than the others.

14 It is impossible to identify this plant, as no ancient writer has given any description of it: it has been suggested, however, that it may have been the Plantago Psyllium, or else the Inula pulicaria of Linnæus. Of course there is no truth in the story here told of the effects of its juice upon the cucumber.

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