Cucumbers are a good example of why you should garden at home. Go to the grocery store and you will find one slicing cucumber variety available. If you are REALLY lucky you might find a pickling variety. Actually, no. You won’t. This also highlights one of the many reasons factory farming sucks: the lack of imagination and love of variety is astounding.
We have been eating this way so long, most of us don’t even realize the diversity that cucumbers come in; that most of them are not actually dark green, or that many cucumbers are round. Flavors of cucumbers also range from being totally bitter (and many people love the bitter ones) to super sweet and everything in between. By the way, Armenian cucumbers are not actually cucumbers, but melons.
As with many threatened heirloom crops, also being lost is the art of cooking and using foods. The variety of our food crops were once great, to meet the needs of the creative cook: in general, as cucumbers are concerned, there are those varieties eaten fresh, and those that are pickled. Generally the pickling types are referred to as gherkins, though most types of cucumbers can be pickled if cut correctly. Pickling is very easy too. I prefer the non-vinegar methods, which are richer in beneficial organisms for your gut. See the video below.
Cucumbers are the ultimate summer fruit (yes, folks, cukes are fruits not vegetables). They have a watery, refreshing flavor, so delicious to slice up and put in a large glass pitcher of cold water. I cannot think of another crop that can take the heat out of summer like a cucumber.
Seed should be directly planted in the location you will grow your cuke. They abhor transplanting or root disturbance. Plant in ground after all threat of frost is over, or have a good plan if frost IS to occur. They produce very quickly once they get going to there isn’t much need to push the season with these guys.
Cucumbers want full sun and rich, balanced soil (not TOO much nitrogen over phosphorus). If you amend your bed with lots of cow, horse or chicken manure, make sure you balance out with something with a good amount of phosphorus, like bat guano or bone meal. But definitely don’t back off on amendments for cucumbers. They love it rich. They also, more than other plants, love a good layer of mulch/straw around the base of the plants. Feed with a balanced fertilizer throughout the growing season, and keep plants picked. Cucumbers are copious producers but will slow down if you leave too many fruits on the vine.
My favorite source for cucumbers is also just my favorite source, period. Baker’s Creek Seed Company.