Cucurbitaceae Family: Cucumbers
Learning to grow your own food does not have to be scary and confusing. The purpose of this series, "Grow What You Eat" was developed from our desire to take the mystery out of growing your own food.
Cucumbers are the cool summer snack that can be eaten right out of the garden, or processed in to even more addicting and refreshing snacks, like pickles or relish. Our family's favorite is a spicy cucumber and onion salad.
Cucumber plants have both the male and female flowers on the same plant. The female flower has the tiny immature fruit attached to it. Bees and other beneficial insects will scatter pollen in between all of the flowers, and in the process, the female flower will become fertilized.
SLICER or PICKLING
Gardens from east to west and north to south find space for the beloved cucumber. Slicing cucumbers are often long and thin skinned for fresh eating. Slicing cucumbers may also be referred to as "burpless" cucumbers, as they contain cucurbitacin, a bitter compound that can cause indigestion when eaten.
The pickling cucumbers are usually squattier and thicker skinned than the slicers. That is because they will hold up better to being processed. Although nowadays it is quite often to see many varieties that have a hybrid of qualities in the same fruit.
BUSH or POLE
Cucumbers grow in either the bush or pole habit. If grown on a trellis the fruit will tend to be straighter. A spineless cucumber does not have the prickly spikes, but don't let that deter you because they can easily be rubbed off... with a little tenderness!
Do not forget to stay on top of harvesting cucumber plants because if a fruit ripens on the vine, it will signal to the plant that it is time to stop producing. And that means no more pickles. Sad.
Cucumbers are fun to grow, and it is especially fun when you grow multiple varieties and cannot remember which is which. As is the case with the picture below. In any case, refrigerator pickles are always a fan favorite round these parts!
Simply take a collection of one pound of cucumbers and slice them to bite size, add some onions, jalapenos, spices (dill, mustard, celery, etc.) and whatever else you want to throw into a quart size jar. In a saucepan, combine 1 cup white vinegar and 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 cup of sugar, and 2 tablespoons of pickling salt until all are dissolved. Pour mixture over cucumber mixture, top off with warm water if needed. Tighten lid and let cool completely before placing in fridge. Keep unopened in fridge for 2 days, then enjoy. Pickles will stay kept in fridge for 1 month, but if your house is like our, they won't last that long!