Growing Armenian Cucumbers in Texas
Armenian cucumbers (Cucumis melo Var. flexuosus), are easy to grow and very prolific producers. They grow very well in Texas and are more heat tolerant than regular cucumbers.
Actually, Armenian cucumbers are not really cucumbers at all. They are a member of the melon family (Cucumis melo). They taste like a cucumber and can be used in dishes calling for cucumbers. Armenian Cucumbers are low in calories, cholesterol and sugar free, and contain fiber, and vitamin C.
When to Plant Armenian Cucumbers in Texas:
Cucumbers are easily grown from seeds planted directly in the garden after all danger of frost has passed (March 21st - 2nd week in April usually). Armenian cucumber vines will grow along the ground or climb a trellis. I would advise planting them along a trellis because the trellis saves space, they allow the cucumbers to grow straighter and stay cleaner, and it lessens the amount of splattered water and dirt that could contribute to powdery mildew.
Types of Trellises:
There are many types of trellises you can buy or create. Armenian cucumbers send out a lot of thin curling tendrils that curl around forms to anchor the plant and help support the weight of the melons. The tendrils seem to choose to curl around thin structures such as wires. For this reason, I would choose a trellis that is made of mesh wire or something similar. A note on the trellis above: Four inch square wire would be more ideal because the small size of the holes in this wire require you to reposition some of these large cucumbers as they grow.
Rolls of 4" square wire fencing, and feedlot panels are ideal materials. They are available at hardware and farm supply stores. The roll of wire fencing is very versatile for creating flat panels, or A-frames over 2"x4" boards, an elegant arch, or even a tubular form.
Choose a site that receives full-sun. Build one long raised mound row along the base of the trellis that is 2' wide and 12" tall. If not using a trellis, build 2' wide x 12" tall individual mounds spaced 4' apart. Plant three or more seeds 1/2" deep 15" apart or in the top of the individual mounds.
Armenian Cucumbers will grow in loose, ordinary well-drained garden soil, but will grow even better if aged compost or humus is added. Cover seeds with fine soil and gently mist the mounds with water. Seedlings will emerge in 7-10 days.
Once the plants have at least two sets of leaves, thin them to 15" apart along the trellis, and 3 plants per mound.
Armenian Cucumber Flowers:
Armenian cucumbers are self-pollinating. They make male and female flowers on the same plant. Pollen from male flowers is carried to female flowers by pollinators.
You can also hand pollinate the female flowers by dipping a tiny paint brush in a fresh male flower to pick up the yellow pollen and then gently dip it in the female flower. Pollinating is easier to do when the flowers open up fully by late morning.
Only female flowers turn into cucumbers. If you look closely, you will see a very tiny ovary or cucumber-to-be above the female flower. Male flowers will eventually fall off the plant. So don't worry when you see some yellow blossoms on the ground.
Watering Armenian Cucumbers:
Armenian cucumbers like moisture and good drainage. You can add straw or other mulch over the top of the soil to help maintain the moisture level. It is good to water in the evening so the plants can enjoy the moisture longer over the night hours.
Harvesting Armenian Cucumbers:
Armenian cucumbers mature in 50-70 days. They produce cucumbers for a few months. The size of an Armenian cucumber can really sneak up on you! Once you notice a small melon forming, check on it daily. They can become large quickly and can grow to over 3 feet long! Be sure to pick them when they are between 14" to 18" long. They will become increasingly harder, seedier and less edible the more they grow beyond 18". Harvest them by cutting the stems with scissors or a paring knife (don't pull on the vines).
If you do want to grow seeds for your next crop, then wait until the end of the season and allow one melon to grow large and produce seeds.
Wash Armenian cucumbers and set them on a towel to air dry until they are almost dry to the touch. Then place them in the vegetable crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
Culinary Uses for Armenian Cucumbers:
Armenian cucumbers can be used in salads, sauces, and recipes calling for cucumbers. Here is an Armenian Cucumber soup recipe and other really good Armenian recipes.
One of My Simple Armenian Cucumber salad recipes:
One Armenian Cucumber cut lengthwise and spoon out the seeds. Cut the two halves into 1/4" pieces. 1 can of Mandarian Orange slices (with juice) 1/2 of a large White Onion cut into thin strips 1.5 teaspoon of fresh tarragon Mix together, cover and chill in the refrigerator until ready to eat.
Pests and Diseases:
Cucumber pests include aphids and cucumber beetles (small lime green beetles with black spots). The most common disease is powdery mildew (leaves have a white, powdery appearance). The pests and powdery mildew can be treated with organic neem oil sprayed on the plants (mix as recommended on the bottle). Never store neem oil, always use it fresh.
A homemade treatment for powdery mildew:
Make a spray solution out of the following ingredients: 1 tablespoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of a biodegradable liquid dish soap such as Seventh Generation, mixed into 1 gallon of water. Shake well and add to a spray bottle. Spray the plant in the evening, when sunlight is not shining on the leaves.
- Planting Time: Spring, after the last frost (March 21st - April)
- Light: Full sun
- Seed Planting Depth: 1/2"
- Soil: well-drained, with aged compost or manure
- Spacing: 15" apart if grown on a trellis
- Water: Likes moisture, add a layer of straw or other mulch to maintain moisture
- Height: 6' - 9' tall vines
- Culinary Use: Salads, sauces, cooked