SOME HEIRLOOM CUCMBERS
SOME HEIRLOOM CUCUMBERS
Last season, in western Oregon, I grew several heirloom cucumbers. All of the ones I grew are open pollinated, so seed can be saved and planted next year. The first of my cucumbers to ripen was ‘Boothby’s Blond’ a variety handed down over generations by the Boothby family living in Maine. The date is unknown, but I would guess nineteenth century. It is a lemon-type, rather small, but quite mild, juicy and delicious. The plants produced well and began early. One failing is that the plants developed powdery mildew earlier than other varieties, and this eventually weakened the plants, causing them to slow production. The garden I grew these in is shaded for the first half of the day and that is part of the problem. I garden organically and use a soap spray to control mildew. Soap slows down the spread of mildew, but does not kill it. Sulfur will kill powdery mildew, but is dusty and smelly. (Be sure to use a face mask if you dust with sulfur.) Anyway, I would recommend growing ‘Boothby’s Blond’ cucumber. It is great tasting, early (50-60 days) and productive. Just try to give it as much sun and air as possible to prevent disease.
Another good heirloom cucumber I grew last year is ‘Parisian Pickle’ from 1880. This variety is listed to mature in 50 days. Now that is true if you pick the cucumbers small, which you might want to do because the fruits grow large quickly. We used this variety for slicing and were about to make pickles when rats appeared and ate all the cucumbers in the garden. Rats can be a problem in urban areas, especially near the coast. I suppose they traveled all over town trying everyone’s cucumbers! ‘Parisian Pickle’ is very productive and fast-growing, but the leaves also developed powdery mildew a couple weeks after ‘Boothby’s Blond’.
An outstanding cucumber grown since the era of the Oregon Trail (1830-1869) is ‘Long Green Improved’ from 1842. It is listed as maturing in 70 days, but I found it to be ten days earlier. (This could be due to weather; we had the hottest summer on record in Oregon during 2015). The skin of the fruit of ‘Long Green Improved’ cucumber has few spines so is smoother-skinned than the previously mentioned varieties. It is an excellent slicer with a mild flavor that can be used for pickling when picked small. Best of all, my six plants of this variety showed absolutely no mildew as late as October. That means this variety will tolerate slightly shadier or crowded conditions than the other two. The fruits will grow to 12 inches or more if allowed. This is a great variety that should be saved from extinction. Why not try it next season?
This year quite a few Flathead Valley gardeners lost their cucumbers due to the cold, wet weather in May. This sometimes happens in our area with our more tender vegetables. I have seen killing frosts here as late as June 5, and several past years with a cold rainy month of May. A good solution to our cool weather issues is to grow tender plants in raised beds or hills, cloched inside tunnels or frames using insulating row cover fabric. Heavy weight row cover fabrics can provide 6 to 8 degrees below freezing of frost protection. Good luck with your garden in 2017!