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How to Select Cucumbers for the Vegetable Garden

cucumber1Do you like cucumbers?  Some people do but others really do not and I have the most difficult time finding good homes for my over abundant cucumber crop every year. Nonetheless, I continue growing them undaunted and heartily recommend growing them to anyone who asks because I find them a very rewarding crop.

So, what kind of cucumbers should you grow? If you decide to grow them from seed (and you should because they are very easy to germinate) you will probably find a huge number of seed packages in you local store. The first thing to consider is whether to grow slicing or pickling cucumbers. You will probably think immediately, “slicing” but don’t make a snap judgment until you read further.

Pickling Cucumbers

Pickling Cucumbers

What do you really like in a cucumber? Few seeds? Thin skin? Then you really should consider growing pickling cucumbers and eating them instead of pickling them. Pickling cucumbers have fewer seeds and thinner skins than slicing varieties (so that the brine or vinegar can penetrate and flavor the body of the cuke.) O. K., so you always peel your cucumbers, right? Maybe you ought to reconsider because the peel has fiber and vitamin A, so why throw that away? “Waxy”, you say. No, you are used to the cucumbers you buy in stores that have an edible wax coating that gives them a lovely, seductive sheen, and retains moisture so they will last in the market place. If you have never eaten a cucumber with skin but without wax, try it, you will like it.

Someone out there will bring up the small size and bumps on pickling cucumbers. Yes, I admit that both are possibilities but when I harvest my pickling cukes and use them in salads and dressings, neither characteristic is an issue. I like the look of my pickling cucumbers sliced very thinly with their skins in salads or ground up for a salad dressing because the green of the skins gives eye appeal. If I decide to pickle some cucumbers (nothing I have considered in the last 30 years) I can be confident that they will be crisp.

Slicing cucumbers, on the other hand, are not as versatile. They can be put in salads and dressing but cannot be used for pickles, except the bread and butter pickles and relishes. Their skins are thicker and they contain more seeds (but they are not bumpy).

One last choice needs to be addressed: burpless or not. I have grown both kinds but have never found much difference because cucumbers “agree” with me and I don’t have a problem with either kind. There are some good burpless kinds and I would certainly grow them and compare them if I could tell the difference.

If you are growing vegetable on a patio try the bush type. They are small plants and produce nice cucumbers you will enjoy.

Here are my recommendations: Pick one or two varieties you think you would like in any given year. Cucumbers can be mega producers so experiment with two or three types at a time.

Here are my top recommendations (but there are many more in the market place that may be good):

Pickling
‘Carolina’ (medium sized plant with good disease resistance)

Pickling for Containers
‘Bush Pickle’

Slicing
‘Marketmore 76’
‘Poinsett 76’
‘Straight Eight’

Slicing for Containers
‘Fanfare’
‘Salad Bush’

Please remember, one cucumber plant can go a long way, literally and figuratively, so limit the number of plants you grow. Your cucumber plants will probably start bearing fruit before your tomatoes, but once you have both, combine them in a simple salad with a touch of onion and olive oil. Yummmm.

Vegetable Gardening pointer

Recommended Reading:

Growing Vegetable Soup
The Art of Simple Food II
Incredible Vegetables from Self-Watering Pots
The Art of Simple Food
Chez Panisse Café Cookbook
Kitchen Garden Experts
Eddies Garden
Groundbreaking Food Gardens
Book Review:Making the Most of Your Allotment
Small Spaces Big Ideas
The Joy of Pickling
Gardening with Less Water
The Little Gardener
Salad Samurai
Power Vegetables!
Gardening the Mediterranean Way
My Pantry
The Dirt Cure
The Ultimate Guide to Gardening
Chez Panisse Vegetables
The Friendship Garden Green: Thumbs Up
Food Rules
Lettuce Grows on the Ground
A Plant Based Life
Growing a Feast
Plantlab
The Urban Homesteading Cookbook
Dandelion & Quince
Eat your Drink
The Broad Fork
The Book of Greens
Eating on the Wild Side
The Power Greens Cookbook
In My Kitchen
Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables
The Vegetables We Eat
Improving Your Soil
The Heirloom Life Gardener
Garbage Helps Our Garden Grow
Compost! Growing Gardens from Your Garbage
American Grown

Recommended Products:

Product Review: Sloggers Garden Boots