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Huge Cucumbers Are Tasty!
by John Harmon
September 2, 2001


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It is difficult for folks in the southern parts of Canada to understand just how fast it changes from summer to winter in the north. Southern folk get to lollygag around enjoying fall and a leisurely extended harvest. The season they refer to as “fall” can start and finish here in the north over a single weekend. We have had multiple frosts out here east of Whitehorse in the last week. Now the race is on to harvest everything possible before the next killing frost finishes the garden. Hopefully we can get that done and do the fall tilling and other chores before it starts to snow. 
Every year I grow some unusual vegetables “just because”. This year one of the things I tried was the Armenian Yard Long Cucumber. It was the “yard long” part that got me, I just couldn’t resist buying a packet of seeds. 
Along with squash, melons, and pumpkins, cucumbers are part of the Cucurbitaceae family and collectively with these crops belong to the group of vegetables known as cucurbits or vine crops. The family (also known as the gourd family) consists of about 96 genera, but only three are of commercial importance. These include Cucumis (cucumber and muskmelon), Citrullis (watermelon), and Cucurbita (pumpkin and squash).
Cucurbits are generally annuals that are extremely intolerant of cold weather. In the north that limits cucumber production to heated greenhouses. They are grown mainly for their fruits, which are derived from a single ovary containing many ovules or seeds. In some parts of the world, flowers and leaves of some species are also used for food. Among vegetable crops, the cucurbits are somewhat different, along with sweet corn, in that they bear both male and female flowers on the same plant. Insects serve as the main pollen carriers. The cucumber is classified Cucumis sativus. The genus comprises about forty species, including muskmelons, honeydews, and cantaloupes.
The cucumber is believed to be native to India, and evidence indicates that it has been cultivated in western Asia for 3,000 years. From India it spread to Greece and Italy, where the Romans were especially fond of the crop, and later into China. The Romans probably introduced it into other parts of Europe and records of cucumber cultivation appear in France in the ninth century, England in the 14th century, and in North America by the mid-16th century.
The Spaniards brought cucumbers to Haiti in 1494. In 1535 Cartier found "very great cucumbers" grown on the site of what is now Montreal. DeSoto, in 1539, saw cucumbers in Florida "better than in Spain." Captain’s Amidas and Barlow found cucumbers in Native American gardens in Virginia in 1584. They were also being grown by the Iriquois when the first Europeans visited them.
The Armenian cucumbers I tried this year have a lighter and smoother leaf than many of the other varieties of cucumber I’ve grown and flowered early and often but didn’t produce any fruit. It turns out this one isn’t a self-pollinating variety like the Long English or European greenhouse varieties. The plant produces both male and female flowers but doesn’t pollinate without the help of insects. I try to bar insects from my greenhouses, sometimes unsuccessfully, so I did a little hand pollinating and the plants obliged by producing some very nice cucumbers.
Besides being big, over two feet long, they are very mild, sweet and crispy. All good attributes in an eating cucumber. The Armenian Yard Long Cucumber is heavily ribbed and lighter in color that any of the other cucumbers I’ve grown. I let mine grow just to see how big they would really get but you’re supposed to harvest them when they are only eight inches long. I think it defeats the purpose of having a variety that will produce monster cucumbers and then harvesting them short. The only problem I had besides the need to hand pollinate was that they tend to split open lengthwise when the get around the two foot mark. Other than that small flaw they were worth the greenhouse space. The Armenian Yard Long Cucumber was worth the effort and just one will do up a batch of pickles.
If you like cucumbers and want to try one that is definitely different you can get seeds from www.seedman.com


John Harmon owns and operates Tropicals North. Write to John c/o The Yukon News, 211 Wood St., Whitehorse, Yukon, Y1A 2E4 



Email: tropnorth@polarcom.com
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