Plant of the Week – Armenian Cucumber

Plant of the Week - Armenian Cucumber

Cucumis melo var. flexuosus

Our Plant of the week – Armenian Cucumber has become one of our favorites.  We were first introduced to this wonderful variant through our subscription to a local CSA.  Yes.  We get some of our vegetables from a CSA program and not our garden.  Since we garden on a small confined urban garden, there are many things we don’t have the room to grow and buying from a grower with whom we have a personal relationship makes sense, but more on that in another article.

We got our first Armenian cucumber in our CSA share box earlier this spring.  We were curious and immediately washed and sliced that strange-looking vegetable for a taste test!  Oh My!  What a treat.  We grow cucumbers in our garden.  Usually, we have three varieties, a pickling cucumber, a regular market cucumber and we try something different as the third choice each season.  I can assure you that Armenian cucumbers will go into our planting list next year.

Armenian Cucumber – what is it exactly?

Unlike most of the commercially grown cucumbers you get in the store and even some of the hybrids that you plant regularly, the Armenian cucumber is very thin-skinned and has a mild flavor with no bitterness.  We use ours without peeling or seeding.  The lack of the large gelatinous seed core is another feature we like.  The Armenian cucumber does have seeds, but they are tightly packed down the center of the fruit and lack much of the mucous membrane that surrounds the seeds in other cucumbers we have grown.

To be truthful, Armenian cucumbers are not true cucumbers.  They are more closely related to muskmelons.  They are often found in non-traditional markets under names like yard-long cucumber, snake cucumber, and snake melon.  Don’t be confused.  These are not snake gourds, another and completely different plant altogether.

We have gotten Armenian cucumbers as long as 30 inches, and they remain tender even at this size.  They also lack the bitterness that is often associated with larger traditional cucumbers. 

Armenian cucumbers are, according to our CSA farmer, easy to grow in West Texas.  They can be grown on the ground or trellised, and prefer full sun. 

Planting

Armenian Cucumber seeds

If you are following our organic system, your soil should be perfect for Armenian cucumbers.  These plants prefer soil rich in organic matter.  If planting seeds, wait until after the last frost and when the soil temperature is above 60 degrees F consistently.  Thin seedlings to one-foot spacing when the seedlings are 3 to 4 inches tall.

Water your Armenian cucumbers consistently.  While they are heat tolerant, like all cucumbers, they need a consistent source of soil moisture to produce high-quality fruit.

Growing

Don’t crowd your Armenia cucumbers.  Give them plenty of space to vine and grow.  Some growers interplant their Armenian cucumbers with corn and allow the cucumber vines to climb the corn stalks.  We suggest whatever the method that trellis should be employed to keep your vines and fruit off the ground.  Keeping the plants off the ground will help with disease and insect control.

Armenian cucumbers, like most melons, produce both male and female flowers.  The male flowers will appear first, usually about two weeks before the female flowers.  Both types of flowers are yellow and can be hard to distinguish, but the females will display a small bulb immediately below the flower.  I suggest that you plant lots of pollinator-attracting plants with your Armenian cucumbers to encourage visits by pollinators.

Feeding and Fertilizing.

Armenian Cucumbers on the vine

Next year when we plant our Armenian Cucumbers, we will follow my basic organic system.  I will feed consistently though the season with compost tea, fortified with fish emulsion and some other basic additions such as rock minerals and worm castings.  I will supplement with a foliar spray of compost tea during the peak season of fruit production. 

Harvesting

Pick your Armenian Cucumbers often.  During the peak of the season, you must harvest daily.  Fruits should be picked when they are 12 to 18 inches long for best flavor.  As with most melons and other cucumbers, pick early in the day and rinse quickly in cool water. 

Don’t pull your cucumbers.  Use a pair of quality garden shears to snip them from the vine.  Snipping rather than pulling prevents structural damage to the vine that could impair the production of more fruit higher on the vine. 

Pick often.  Leaving the fruit on the vine causes the plant to slow down fruit production. 

Uses

Use Armenian Cucumbers just like you would any other cucumber.  You don’t have to peel them.  The skins are thin and flavorful.  They can be used in dips, salads or sandwiches, or just sliced and eaten like chips.

Armenian cucumbers can also be pickled, grilled or used in juicing recipes.

We are excited about finding this plant to add to our garden next spring.  I will update this article next year as we grow our Armenian cucumbers. 

You can also search out wedsite for recipes using Armenian cucumbers.  Access the site and use the search feature on the right column.  https://westtexasorganicgardening.com          

Several seed suppliers offer Armenian Cucumber seeds.  Check out:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds – Armenian Yard-Long Cucumber

Seed Savers Exchange – Armenian Cucumber

Johnny’s Selected Seeds – Striped Armenian Cucumbers