When to harvest pickling cucumbers

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Video When to harvest pickling cucumbers

by Cass PetersonJune 1999from challenge #21

My Aunt Eleanor was an amazing one for pickles. She maintained a big patch of pickling cucumbers, which it was usually my responsibility to select. The patch was a sea of cucumber vines into which I went barefoot, feeling with my toes for the fruit hidden amid a tangle of stems and leaves, each misstep filling the air with the scent of crushed cucumber.

A ten-minute treasure hunt was normally sufficient to fill a two-gallon bucket, and I took my reward in a few contemporary cucumbers—one to eat and one to chop open and rub on legs itching from the vegetation’ spiny foliage. Cucumbers are soothing, inside and outside.

Aunt Eleanor had the area to indulge her love of pickles, however you may benefit from the crunchy goodness of just-picked cucumbers with out surrendering your entire backyard to their rampant vines. Hybridizers have been busy making cucumber vegetation extra compact, in addition to extra productive and extra immune to illness. Picklers are prolific and fast to supply, with some varieties bearing in as little as 45 days.

Picklers for crunch and eye attractionThe primary picklers have been picks from the unique cucumbers, and all of them have been rangy of vine and stingy of fruit, just like the fearsome and prickly West Indian gherkin. However even again within the mid-Nineteenth century, when New England horticulturist Fearing Burr was cataloguing them, picklers had been tamed to vine lengths of 10 ft or so.Trendy varieties are a 3rd to a half shorter and have extra flowers alongside the vine as properly.

You don’t should pickle picklers. Harvested younger, when the seed cavities are small, any number of pickler is ok for contemporary consuming—in a salad or out of hand. Pickler varieties aren’t uniformly darkish inexperienced just like the slicing-type cucumbers offered within the grocery store. They’re paler inexperienced, typically with light-colored stripes working lengthwise down the fruit. Picklers have thinner pores and skin and crisper, crunchier flesh than most slicers. Just a few vegetation shall be sufficient to maintain you in contemporary cukes.

When to harvest pickling cucumbers The darkish inexperienced pores and skin of ‘Calypso’ helps set it aside from many different picklers, which usually have light-colored stripes or speckles.

Dwarf cucumbers

Dwarf cucumbers could be grown in containers.

Catalog descriptions of vining habits aren’t all the time helpful. The phrase “vigorous” is usually used to point heavy flowering and fruiting, slightly than rampant vines. You gained’t actually know their behavior till you strive them, however typically, the newer hybrids, which suggests picklers in addition to commonplace cucumbers, are inclined to have shorter vines. In my backyard, ‘Calypso’, ‘Royal’, and ‘H-19 Little Leaf’, comparatively new introductions within the pickler class, will journey 4 to six ft, however you may flip the vines again on themselves in the event that they stray too far. ‘Pickalot’ and ‘National Pickling’, venerable varieties, will journey 8 to 10 ft from the place they’re planted, however they, too, could be educated to climb over themselves.

There are dwarf varieties—together with ‘Bush Pickle Hybrid’, which has vines simply 18 inches lengthy—which can be appropriate for rising in small areas and even in containers. Cucumber vines are enticing sufficient {that a} pot of them wouldn’t look misplaced on the patio. ‘H-19 Little Leaf’ is a very good candidate, with its ivy­like foliage and clouds of yellow flowers.

Cucumbers have greedy tendrils and willingly haul themselves up a fence or trellis. When you have restricted area however need to develop one of many standard-size pickling hybrids like ‘Calypso’ or ‘Royal’, contemplate rising them vertically.

The historical past behind bitter cucumbers

Cucumbers originated in India, the place they’ve been cultivated for greater than 3,000 years. Wild ancestors of the fruit, nonetheless, have been a part of the human weight-reduction plan lengthy earlier than that. Excavations on the Burma-Thailand border discovered cucumber seeds among the many stays of meals eaten round 9750 b.c.e.

Pickling was invented early, too, presumably as a result of the ancients found that soaking cucumbers in brine took the bitter edge off the flavour of the fruit. On the time of the pharaohs, Egyptians ate brine-dipped cucumbers at each meal.

These early cucumbers have been in all probability extra carefully associated to the West Indian gherkin (Cucumis anguria) than to the juicier, sweeter cucumber (C. sativus) that fashionable gardeners plant.

Nutritionally, cucumbers aren’t a lot to jot down residence about. The fruit is 96 % water and accommodates solely a small quantity of nutritional vitamins A and C, with most of that discovered within the peel. That’s why one among my favorites is ‘Calypso’. As a result of it’s darkish inexperienced, whereas many picklers are paler, it fools me into pondering I’m getting diet the place I’m not.

The water content material offers cucumbers their cool fameThe early Romans believed that sleeping on a mattress of cukes would remedy a fever. That could be a bit far-fetched, however the succulent fruit is a surefire thirst-quencher. Many a parched gardener has discovered fast aid within the cucumber patch with out the need of heading to the kitchen for a glass of water.

Except, after all, the gardener occurs to seize a bitter cuke. Cucumbers produce pure compounds referred to as cucurbitacins, that are chargeable for the bitterness that typically develops within the pores and skin. Cucurbitacins at excessive ranges may cause abdomen misery, and in any case they provide the cucumber a strongly bitter taste. Warmth and water stress can improve cucurbitacin ranges to the purpose the place the cucumber should be peeled to be palatable.

Roughly one in 5 individuals can’t style cucurbitacins, and so have by no means eaten a bitter cucumber. However twice that many individuals are hypersensitive to the bitter style, which is why plant breeders have been working to cut back the extent of the compounds that cucumbers produce. The result’s so-called burpless cucumbers, bred to supply fewer cucurbitacins.

Find out how to cope with a pesky pestThe cucumber beetle, 1⁄5 inch lengthy, both noticed or striped, is the worst enemy of cucumbers, particularly within the Midwest and East. It’s interested in the scent of cucurbitacins, that are produced by cucumbers, squashes, melons, and different cucurbits.

Grownup beetles feed on flowers and foliage; their larvae feed on roots. Worse, the beetles might infect the plant with a illness referred to as bacterial wilt, which blocks the circulate of water via the plant’s stems. Cucumbers are particularly vulnerable to bacterial wilt, for which there is no such thing as a treatment. Contaminated vegetation will wilt and die inside days.

Just a few cucumber beetles within the patch isn’t a assure of bacterial wilt. The beetle should first decide up the illness bacterium, normally from weeds that will not present signs of the illness. However the danger of wilt is all the time there if the cucumber beetle is current.

Younger vegetation are probably the most vulnerable to striped cucumber beetle harm. As soon as a plant has developed at the very least three pairs of true leaves, it may tolerate appreciable harm to its foliage with out lowering yield. You may defend younger vegetation from cucumber beetles with a polyester row cowl, however finally it should be eliminated to let bees and different bugs pollinate the flowers.

Row cover A layer of sunshine row cowl helps defend younger cucumber vegetation from the rapacious cucumber beetle, however it should be eliminated for pollination.

My protection in opposition to beetles and bacterial wilt is to plant cucumbers a number of occasions a yr. If the vegetation are protected till they want pollination, likelihood is they are going to produce an honest crop earlier than the wilt strikes, if it strikes in any respect. Planting successive crops a number of weeks aside assures me of contemporary cucumbers all season lengthy, even when the beetles do in a number of of the plantings. (For extra on managing these pests, see Controlling Cucumber Beetles).

Cucurbitacin lures

Cucurbitacins, the bitter chemical compounds present in cucumbers and different members of the squash household, pose advanced points for plant breeders and people making an attempt to fend off pests. They’re irresistible to cucumber beetles, which residence in on the cucurbitacin scent to seek out the vegetation they like to eat. In exams, cucurbitacins laced with insecticide have been used to lure cucumber beetles to their doom. It’s a bit like being achieved in by a yearning for chocolate.

Though the cucurbitacin compounds entice cucumber beetles, additionally they act as a pure pesticide, re­­pel­ling or killing many different bugs.

Burpless cucumber varieties produce fewer of the cucurbitacins individuals don’t need to style, however have a tendency to draw extra insect pests, corresponding to aphids and spider mites. Alternatively, burpless varieties could also be much less vulnerable to break from the cucumber beetle.

In the meantime cucurbitacin lures are a part of the rising discipline of Built-in Pest Administration. Though some kinks stay, corresponding to how greatest to ship the compound, what has labored in analysis might at some point be the salvation of residence backyard cukes, too.

Cucumber fertilityTo make sure I get probably the most from every planting, I prefer to plant gynodioecious varieties like ‘Calypso’ and ‘Royal’. Cucumbers are naturally monoecious, which implies that they’ve female and male flowers on the identical plant. Gynodioecious varieties produce solely feminine flowers, which makes them able to producing almost twice the variety of fruits as monoecious varieties, as a result of solely feminine flowers produce fruit.

Cucumber sortsMonoecious: producing female and male flowers on the identical plant

Gynodioecious: producing solely feminine flowers

Parthenocarpic: requiring no pollination and producing seedless fruit

You’ll need a number of male flowers to offer pollen. Seed corporations handle this by together with within the packet a number of seeds of a monoecious selection, that are normally dyed a vivid coloration so you may be sure you plant a number of alongside together with your gynodioecious cucumbers.

There’s one other class of cucumbers: parthenocarpic varieties, which require no pollination and produce seedless fruit. A lot of the out there parthenocarpic cucumbers are slicers, however a brand new cornichon pickler selection referred to as ‘Cool Breeze’ is each parthenocarpic and burpless.

Parthenocarpic cucumbers are a bit trickier to develop than gynodioecious varieties as a result of they should be fastidiously shielded from probability pollination by different cucumbers or by wild family. However they are often left lined to exclude cucumber beetles proper up till harvest time, a boon for beetle-plagued areas.

Seed catalogs usually describe pickling cucumber varieties as both white-spined or dark-spined, referring to the colour of the prickly spines, which rub off simply. It actually doesn’t make any distinction which you get. White-spined varieties will ripen white, and dark-spined will ripen yellow, however at that stage the cucumber is over the hill anyway.

Sources for pickling cucumbersSeeds for pickling cucumbers can be found from:• Burpee• Gurney’s Seed & Nursery Co.• Harris Seeds• Johnny’s Chosen Seeds• Fedco Seeds

Cucumbers need heat, tender soilCucumbers are warm-weather vegetation, and can sprout readily if sown immediately into heat soil. You may achieve a bit of time on the season by beginning the vegetation indoors, however be forewarned that cucumbers, like all cucurbits, resent having their roots disturbed. When you select to make use of seedlings slightly than seeds, begin them in peat pots no earlier than three weeks earlier than you plan to plant them outside and transplant fastidiously to keep away from root harm.

Sow two or three seeds collectively, within the floor or in a peat pot, and let the younger vegetation develop up collectively. No must skinny them out.

Cucumbers like a lightweight, fertile soil. In case your backyard has heavy clay soil, lighten it up with compost or peat earlier than trying cucumbers. Good compost additionally will present the regular provide of vitamins that cucumbers want. When you use industrial, granulated fertilizer, combine a beneficiant handful into the soil at planting and sidedress at the very least as soon as through the season.

Satisfactory moisture is essentialCucumbers want a deep soaking as soon as per week, at a minimal. Mulching is a good suggestion, too. It would assist forestall the soil from drying out between waterings, and it’ll maintain weeds down. That is necessary for cucumbers, as a result of pulling weeds by hand or cultivating with a hoe would possibly harm these delicate roots.

Begin harvesting pickler cucumbers when they’re 2 to three inches lengthy, and don’t let the fruit develop to greater than 4 or 5 inches lengthy. Picklers are inclined to flabbiness within the center when allowed to get too large. None is especially long-lived within the fridge. They respire via their skins and get wrinkly, therefore the grocery store cuke with its protecting coat of wax or shrink-wrap. Every week or so is prime storage time.

Pickling cucumbers

Pickling cucumbers, with their tight seed cavities and agency flesh, make for teriffic consuming straight out of the backyard or chilled in a salad.

As Aunt Eleanor knew properly, frequent choosing will maintain the plant productive longer. It’s possible you’ll even do that barefoot.

When cooking with cucumbers, extract the water first the kitchen When utilizing pickler cucumbers in recipes corresponding to Cucumber and Noodle Salad with Satay Dressing, Mediterranean Cucumber Salad, and Cucumber and Yogurt Raita, it would be best to extract among the water so the dishes don’t prove soggy. So peel the cucumbers, lower them into the form you want, salt them, and place them in a colander. Allow them to drain for a few half hour and pat them dry—in the event that they’re grated, squeeze gently first. Then proceed with the recipe. This makes the cucumber dishes sal­tier, so don’t add salt till you’ve tasted.

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