As it gets around to seed catalog time, you inevitably remember the best performers you had last year. The ones you want to be sure you plant again. This last summer it was a mystery plant a friend gave me, Kay Whatley of the non-profit Grow and Share. She gave me a little 2×2 pot with a seedling that had lost its tag. She remembered that it was really in the melon family but it wasn’t a melon. I was intrigued.
For a few weeks I watched it struggle to get established and grow. Then it took off! It became a plant that was obviously vining with triangular lobed leaves that was setting yellow blossoms. Another week and I could see it set fruit that became long curved fruits one to two feet long.
After taking some pictures and downloading them to my computer, I tried to identify them on the internet. I finally determined that I had an Armenian cucumber (Cucumis melo var. flexuosus). A mild flavored cucumber that didn’t need peeling, did well in heat and humidity (yeah!) and was a prolific producer! It was also technically in the melon family just as Kay had said. Bingo! Its other huge asset was that it didn’t seem to be bothered much by bugs either.
Needless to say, I took cucumbers to church potlucks, I pickled them. We ate them with almost every dinner and in every salad and sandwich. I sautéed them and used them in stir fry. They kept producing until the end of summer when, as they tired, some squash bugs finally found them and drilled into their stems – and that was the end!
I was so glad for the gift of a friend that led to the discovery of a cucumber so well suited our southeast-zone 7/8 garden. One that took so little care and produced so much delicious fruit all summer long. What were your stars of the garden last year? Please share your greatest successes with us here! (Please identify your state/county/zone too – thanks!)
Connie Schultz, Master Gardener/Composter (’95, Cornell Extension) currently volunteering in Johnston County, North Carolina