Cucumbers bring to mind cool crispness and delicate flavor. Their flavor is unique. Nothing else tastes like cucumber especially a cucumber that is home grown and picked just before a meal or snack. This year I planted two different kinds of cucumbers.
One was the long English type of cucumber, 'Chelsea Prize' and the other the heirloom variety, the Lemon Cucumber which is said to have superior flavor. Cucumbers have a long and interesting history. They have been grown in Asia for over three thousand years. Well loved by kings, emperors, The Romans, and just plain folks, cucumbers satisfy the palate. Many cucumbers consumed in this country are eaten as pickles since they are so easy to store on the shelf. I did read that the average American eats 9 lbs. of pickles per year with over 2.5 billion pounds of pickles consumed annually. Well, pickles don't really taste much like a fresh cucumber. Fresh cucumbers are available in the produce section of the market all year long but I have to say that the flavor of a cucumber is best and most defined when it comes straight from the garden.
Lemon cucumbers are very uncucumberlike. They are round, yellow and grow more like their relative, the melon, than the familiar,traditional long and slender cucumber. The taste has been described as delicate and the skins, thin. I really should have read the information on determining just when to best pick this fruit. I picked the fruit when it was yellow to gold in color. When I sliced it open I found large seeds. This fruit is mature and best picked when they just start to turn yellow. To know a vegetable, one must grow it. I found the taste of the smaller, greenish yellow fruit about the same as the more mature fruit but the seeds were more palatable. The fruit has little spines as do other cucumbers and you can rub them right off and eat them just as you would an apple or a tomato while standing in the garden. My cucumbers are planted a bit close together and the vines of the Chelsea Prize are intertwined with those of the lemon cucumber. Space is always an issue and productivity is sacrificed just a bit when spacing is tight. Good companion plantings for cucumbers include: nasturtiums, radishes, marigolds and goldenrod. The plants are heavy feeders. I fed them initially with an organic, granular fertilizer supplemented with liquid fish fertilizer. The lemon cuke does have a nice, mild flavor and it is a good conversation piece on the table but Chelsea Prize has won my heart for productivity, flavor and size. Perhaps it is not a fair comparison. I might grow lemon cucumbers again. They are quite pretty and a bit of a surprise to the uninitiated.What about you? Have you grown anything unusual or different this year?
Note: My seeds came to me from Renee's Garden in a promotional pack for garden writers. I thank them for the opportunity to try their product. I have re-ordered seeds from them at my own expense.