Cucumber Gardening Information

Cucumber:

Cucumbers have always been a staple in my gardens. They are relatively easy to grow, if handled right are big producers and cucumbers are able to be eaten fresh, added to recipes and they store well as pickles.

This year I planted 10 feet of cucumbers. I chose 1 type to plant. It was a “slicing” cucumber. I chose Burpee’s Straight Eight. The Advertising for these cucumbers states:

A cucumber superstar, this classic has excellent flavor and is widely adapted.
This heirloom, All-America Selections winner is a cuke for all burpee_straight_eight_Cucumberseasons. Pick when 8″ long for top flavor. For perfect cukes, grow them on a fence or our space-saving Trellis Netting. Sow seeds 6″ apart in rows, or plant 5 or 6 seeds in groups (hills) 4 to 5′ apart.
Sun: Full Sun
Height: 6-8 inches
Spread: 36 inches
Days to Maturity: 58 days
Sowing Method: Direct Sow
Fruit Size: 6-8 inches

I planted 10 feet of straight eights – 4 mounds of 2 plants each. I found the Burpee straight eight to be a very good cucumber. Fantastic taste and prolific. One issue we had with them is if we let them go a week extra, we would need to scrape out the seeds since they started to take over the cucumber.

We started the cucumbers in mid-May in the green house in large seed pots filled with starter soil. They were not planted until the second week of June when the plants already had 3 sets of leaves. I set up a plastic wide-mesh fence so the plants could climb. As far as fertilizer, we used miracle grow 10-10-10 – 3 times during the season. We had no issues with pests and in-fact honey bees were common the entire summer around the “cukes”, something that made me happy since for the last five or so years seeing honey bees in any quantity has become very rare. I try not to use chemicals and in late September we lost all the cucumbers to powdery-mildew. So, word to the wise – beware.

We ended up picking 32lbs. over the season. Almost all eaten or given to the “kids” In accordance with my garden book written by James Underwood Crockett – that is a decent average for the amount I planted.

Some Cucumber Info:

Description

Even though long, dark green, smooth-skinned garden cucumbers are familiar vegetables in the produce sections of most groceries, cucumbers come in a wide variety of colors, sizes, shapes and textures. You’ll find white, yellow, and even orange-colored cucumbers, and they may be short, slightly oval, or even round in shape. Their skins can be smooth and thin, or thick and rough. In a technical sense, cucumbers are actually fruits, not vegetables.
All cucumbers belong to the botanical plant family called Curcubitaceae. This broad family of plants includes melons and squashes.

Burpee_CucumbersWhile there are literally hundreds of different varieties of cucumbers, virtually all can be divided into two basic types: slicing and pickling. Slicing cucumbers include all varieties that are cultivated for consumption in fresh form. Pickling cucumbers include all varieties that are cultivated not for consumption in fresh form, but for processing into pickles.

Growing Cucumbers

Cucumbers are fairly easy to grow if you take care of a few things:
1. They like a fairly neutral soil.
2. They are heavy feeders so when planting make sure to add either: compost, well rotted manure, some grass clippings or anything that will help provide nourishment for the plants.
3. They need water so make sure to provide plenty and if you keep the water off the leaves all the better to avoid powdery-mildew.
4. You can double crop cucumbers. Start the second sowing in late June in pots. By late July pick all cucumbers from 1st crop, pull out plants, add some 10-10-10 or 5-10-10 fertilizer and plant the young plants. This should give you a good crop by Mid-August and depending on your average frost dates, you should have cucumbers “till-the end”.

History

Cucumber plants naturally thrive in both temperate and tropical environments, and generally require temperatures between 60-90°F. For this reason, they are native to many regions of the world. In evolutionary terms, the first cucumbers were likely to have originated in Western Asia (and perhaps more specifically in India) or parts of the Middle East. It was not until the time of the European colonists that cucumbers finally appeared in North America in the 1500’s.

Eggplant Growing and Gardening

Eggplant Gardening

The Garden:

I planted what has come to be a great eggplant, Burpee Black Beauty organic eggplant. In all my years of gardening I have yet to grow an eggplant that was so sweet. Older fruits were not at all tough or stringy. I absolutely will grow these again and anyone who asks I would suggest Burpee Black Beauty. The fact that Burpee developed the plant as organic is all the more!! I shy away from hybrids and absolutely hate GMO.

organic_eggplant

Eggplant grown for 2015

Seeds were started in March in the basement. 9 plants were eventually grown. In early May I put them into the greenhouse to harden up and complete phase 1 growing. I planted late – 2nd week of June. I cut the bottoms out of large plastic cups and placed around the plant bases to discourage cut worms (which each year I fight with). The plants were placed in 3 rows of 3 plants each. Plants were spaced 2 feet apart in rows 2 feet apart. The plants grow tall, 3 – 3 ½ feet and spread out so they need to space.

2015 proved to be tough early on. The Northeast was wet and cool. The eggplant plants really did not start growing until July. July warmed up but was dry. The plants eventually got their “legs” and by August all was good. As of October 10, 2015, no frost yet, we harvested 32 lbs. with maybe another 8 lbs. to go. Our local supermarket sells eggplants for $2.50/lbs. With that said, we have harvested $80.00 in eggplant this year and have $12.00 to go!! Not too bad from 9 plants.

Our 3 children had fun with the eggplants grown. All are adults and living on their own. While home they like to “shop” in the garden. All took eggplant home and all said they loved them. They tend to be tough critics so I take their happiness as “thumbs up” for Burpee seeds.

What is an Eggplant:

Eggplant_growing

Eggplant fruit growing

Eggplant is a vegetable long prized for its unique taste and texture. Eggplants belong to the plant family commonly known as nightshades, and are related to the tomato, bell pepper and potato. Eggplants grow in a manner much like tomatoes, hanging from the vines of a plant that grows several feet in height.

One of the most popular varieties of eggplant in North America looks like a pear-shaped egg, a characteristic from which its name is derived. The skin is glossy and deep purple in color, while the flesh is cream colored and spongy in consistency. Contained within the flesh are seeds arranged in a conical pattern.

In addition to this variety, eggplant is also available in a cornucopia of other colors including lavender, jade green, orange, and yellow-white, as well as in sizes and shapes that range from that of a small tomato to a large zucchini.

Eggplant History

The ancient ancestors of eggplant grew wild in India and were first cultivated in China in the 5th century B.C. Eggplant was introduced to Africa before the Middle Ages and then into Italy, the country with which it has long been associated, in the 14th century. It subsequently spread throughout Europe and the Middle East and, centuries later, was brought to the Western Hemisphere by European explorers. Today, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, China and Japan are the leading growers of eggplant.

Select and Store your Eggplant

Choose eggplants that are firm and heavy for their size. Their skin should be smooth and shiny, and their color, whether it be purple, white or green, should be vivid. They should be free of discoloration, scars, and bruises, which usually indicate that the flesh beneath has become damaged and possibly decayed.

Eggplant_flower

Eggplant flowers

The stem and cap, on either end of the eggplant, should be bright green in color. To test for the ripeness of an eggplant, gently press the skin with the pad of your thumb. If it springs back, the eggplant is ripe, while if an indentation remains, it is not.

Although they look hardy, eggplants are actually very perishable and care should be taken in their storage. Eggplants are sensitive to both heat and cold and should ideally be stored at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not cut eggplant before you store it as it perishes quickly once its skin has been punctured or its inner flesh exposed.

Place uncut and unwashed eggplant in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator crisper where it will keep for a few days. If it is too large for the crisper, do not try to force it in; this will damage the skin and cause the eggplant to spoil and decay. Instead, place it on a shelf within the refrigerator.

Tips for Preparing Eggplant

When cutting an eggplant, use a stainless steel knife as carbon steel will react with its phytonutrients and cause it to turn black. Wash the eggplant first and then cut off the ends.

Most eggplants can be eaten either with or without their skin. However, the larger ones and those that are white in color generally have tough skins that may not be palatable. To remove skin, you can peel it before cutting or if you are baking it, you can scoop out the flesh once it is cooked.

To tenderize the flesh’s texture and reduce some of its naturally occurring bitter taste, you can sweat the eggplant by salting it. After cutting the eggplant into the desired size and shape, sprinkle it with salt and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes. This process will pull out some of its water content and make it less permeable to absorbing any oil used in cooking.

Rinsing the eggplant after “sweating” will remove most of the salt.

Eggplant can be baked, roasted in the oven, or steamed.

Eggplant Nutrition

According to my handy dandy “Farmers’ Market Guide and Cookbook”, eggplant has measurable amounts of folic acid, potassium and is high in sodium.

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