Growing Armenian cucumbers is a great way to ensure a steady supply of cucumbers in the heat of the summer.
This is great news for us desert dwellers who want cucumbers all summer long. First cultivated in Armenia in the 15th century, Armenian cucumbers (also called yard-long cucumbers) are actually not cucumbers at all – they are a ribbed variety of musk melon that tastes similar to a cucumber and looks like a cucumber inside. They are also high in vitamins A, C, and K, and potassium. Have I convinced you to try growing Armenian cucumbers?
5 tips for growing Armenian cucumbers in the Garden:
1. Armenian cucumbers thrive in hot summers
Heat tolerance is their number one attribute; high temperatures do not stress these plants. Before planting, prepare soil by amending with compost. When it is warm outside (consistent days above 65 ℉, and 80℉ is even better) plant 2-3 seeds ½ to 1 inch deep about 1 foot apart. When seeds are 3-4 inches tall, thin to 1 plant every foot. Although they are very heat tolerant, they require even and consistent watering to prevent them from becoming bitter.
Armenian cucumbers are one of only a handful of vegetables that can be planted through the beginning of July in the low desert.
Watch the video to the end and you will see the fruits of cross-pollination between an Armenian cucumber and a Chimayo melon. I didn’t realize the seeds I saved the previous year had cross-pollinated and those were the result.
2. Give Armenian cucumbers room to grow in the garden
- Do not overcrowd plants – crowded plants are more susceptible to pests and diseases such as powdery mildew and squash bugs.
- Rotate where you plant Armenian cucumbers – do not plant in the same area as you previously planted other melons, squash or cucumbers.
- Corn is a good companion plant for Armenian cucumbers, and they may climb the corn as they would a trellis.
- Armenian cucumbers are best grown on some sort of trellis to keep them off the ground. Trellised fruits will grow straighter.
3. It’s all about the flowers
Armenian cucumbers have both male and female flowers. Male flowers will appear first and will continue to bloom; about 2 weeks later the first female flowers will appear. Both types of flowers are yellow. Male flowers will bloom and hopefully “bee” visited by a pollinator to pass the pollen onto the female flower, then wither and fall off. Female flowers are bulbous, will bloom, and if pollinated will develop into fruit. Blooms are numerous, and hand-pollination is usually not necessary. Encourage bees by planting oregano, basil, and other flowering plants nearby.
4. Pick Armenian cucumbers young and often
Although fruits can grow to 3 feet long in a hurry, they are best picked between 12-18 inches long and 2 ½ inches in diameter.
- Pick fruit early in the day and immerse in cold water to lengthen storage time.
- Cut off fruit from vine; pulling can damage vine.
- Leaving fruit on the vine too long signals to the plant to slow or stop production.
- Larger fruit have larger more noticeable seeds. Larger fruit taste less like a cucumber and more like a watermelon rind.
5. Enjoy the harvest of Armenian cucumbers from your garden.
A few plants will give you almost more Armenian cucumbers than you can use. Here are a few ways to enjoy them:
- No need to peel; skin on young Armenian cucumbers is thin and edible.
- Use as you would cucumbers in salad, dips, sushi, or sandwiches.
- Armenian cucumbers are delicious pickled.
- Try grilling them in vegetable kabobs or puréeing in smoothies.
- Excellent with pork, fish, mint, oregano, dill, yogurt, and feta cheese.