Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

Cucumbers for Salad and More

by Charlie Nardozzi

There is nothing like the crunch of a freshly harvested, refreshing cucumber. It's one of the summer vegetables that can be eaten right in the garden, or harvested for use in salads, sandwiches, dips, sauces, and soups. If you really love the taste of your cukes, you can easily make pickles for winter, too.

One of the best qualities of cucumbers is their versatility. They grow anywhere there's full sun, warmth, fertile soil, and water. You can grow long, vining varieties up trellises. When grown vertically, the fruits tend to grow straighter and are easier to harvest. You can grow short, dwarf varieties in containers and let them spill onto a deck or patio. Either way, the place to start is selecting the right variety.

Here are some tips on growing cucumbers in your garden or container.

Cucumber Varieties

Cucumber varieties are grouped as slicing or pickling. However, don't get stuck on labels. The shorter, fatter pickles are good eaten fresh, too. Most cucumber varieties are monoecious. This means they have separate male and female flowers on each plant. In order to get fruit, bees need to pollinate the flowers. Some varieties are gynecious. These have mostly females flowers, so can produce more fruit. If you're having a hard time getting fruit to set because of cold, rainy weather or lack of bees, try growing the newer parthenocarpic varieties. These produce cucumbers without pollination.

Here are some good varieties to try:

'Armenian' - (70 days) The pale green, 2- to 3-foot-long slicing fruits have a crisp texture and mild flavor. The vigorous vines produce fruit that are straight, if grown on a trellis; or curled, if grown on the ground.

'Diva Hybrid' - (58 days) This parthenocarpic variety has smooth, dark green skin and a sweet flavor. It can be used as a pickler when harvested at 2 to 4 inches long, or as a slicer when picked at 6 to 8 inches long. It has good disease tolerance.

'Eureka' - (57 days) This variety also can be used as a pickler or slicer. It can be harvested at the 2- to 4-inch-long size for pickling, or 7 inches long for slicing. It has the color and shape of a slicer and great disease tolerance.

'Homemade Pickles' - (57 days) A medium green with white spines, this pickler can be harvested from 1-1/2 to 5 inches long for canning. It has excellent disease tolerance.

'Olympian Hybrid'- (59 days) This gynecious slicer features tapered, 7-1/2-inch-long fruits on disease-tolerant plants.

'Pot Luck Hybrid' - (55 days) This space-saving slicer has compact, 18-inch-long vines that produce 6-inch-long fruits. It's great for containers.

'Slice Master' - (58 days) This early maturing, gynecious variety features heavy yields of 8-1/2-inch-long fruits on plants that tolerate disease and poor soil.

'Straight Eight' - (63 days) This vigorous and productive 7- to 8-inch-long classic slicer is resistant to bacterial wilt disease.

'Sweet Slice' - (62 days) A 10- to 12-inch-long, dark green slicer that features a sweet and bitter-free flavor. It has good disease tolerance.

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