The humble cucumber. Never a sexy veg, but summer certainly seems not-quite-right without them. We only ever use them fresh. I don’t can or pickle them, and I’ve not figured out another way to preserve them through winter. With all that in mind, we usually grow 2-3 plants (that and they take up a good bit of space). Here’s what I look for when choosing a cucumber:
Days to Maturity: These guys should fit into almost every garden. Most are in the 50-60 day range, so there shouldn’t be much issue here. Yay!
Diseases and Pests: Obviously, Cucumber Mosaic Virus is a big one and you should look for resistant varieties when you can. Other ones that may or may not be a big deal to you are Anthracanose, Downy Mildew, Powdery Mildew, Scab and a whole host of other icky diseases. Just check out your seed catalogs or ask your nursery experts.
Use: If you are the kind of amazing gardener who is also a proficient relish, chutney, and pickles- well bully for you! (And may I send you my address to be a taste tester?) You have so many more fun choices! I, on the other hand, look only for great fresh flavor, low seed volume, and longer/skinnier cucumber.
Key Words: I find cucumber descriptions to be pretty straightforward. Gherkins are small. If it is great for pickling, it often has “Pickling” in the name. Just look for descriptors that match your needs.
My Favorites: These days I’m only growing Tendergreen Burpless and Telegraph Improved as they are large but narrow and have a lower number of seeds. They are never bitter and easy to work with (rarely curvy). They are as tasty small as they are huge, but they don’t seem to get out of control and massive. These two are my favorites and I find them easy to grow from seeds as well.
In the past I’ve grown a smaller, round cucumber called Richmond Green Apple which is tasty, but can blow up like a yellow balloon so I’ve stayed away from them in recent years. These guys will certainly punish you if you don’t catch them all under the foliage.
I’ve also grown a large pickling type (back when I thought I might be a pickling type), they are nice, but I much prefer the two I listed above.
You can see that I’ve not done a whole ton of experimenting with cucumber varieties. I stumbled upon two that I really liked early on and have stuck with them for years.
There are a lot of really neat Asian varieties like Suyo Long, Yamato Extra Long, Aonaga Jibai, Gagon, and Natsu Fushinari that I would like to try. These tend to be a bit longer to mature (60-75 days, but even I can grow those in a Zone 4), but rumor has it the flavor is much more interesting than many of the European varieties. Many of these are long and narrow with lower seed volumes, all of which tick my boxes. I’ll let you know which one I decide to try this year!
And don’t forget the fun Mexican Sour Gherkin, I’ve seen loads of bloggers growing these. I’ve not yet been tempted, but they take 75 days to mature and are purportedly extremely prolific. With just the two of us to eat them and not preserving them, I’m not sure I want to give them a shot, but they sure are fun!
What varieties do you love and what do you do with your cucumbers! I’m hoping some of you will share a recipe or two (hint, hint!).