I never thought about growing cucumbers here in Jackson Hole. You see, cucumbers are delicate plants. Not frost hardy at all.
But I had an extra tub in my greenhouse and decided to try cucumbers. I thought it was worth the effort because I’ve found time and time again that freshly picked home-grown cucumbers are far superior to those from the grocery store. On the one hand, they are much crisper because they haven’t been sitting on trucks for who knows how long.
I bought some small grafts from a local garden center and didn’t bother reading their little white plastic tags for an ID. When I got home I found that I had bought English pickles instead of slicers or small pickled cucumbers.
And it turned out to be a good mistake.
But let me get up again. It is better to start with cucumber plants started in a greenhouse or start them indoors under light. Transplants could be started on a sunny windowsill. There is simply not enough time to get a large crop for direct-sown cukes as it can take a long time for the soil to warm up and germinate the seeds in the spring.
I wasn’t that familiar with English cucumbers other than that they are sold in grocery stores, where they are sold wrapped in plastic wrap to protect their delicate skin.
English cucumbers are long and straight. In fact, they can be twice as long as a regular slicer. Their taste is less bitter than other types of cucumber and they do not need to be peeled. They have smaller seeds and are considered “belchless”.
I was pleasantly surprised at how many of the long fruits I harvested. Remarkably, the plants never succumbed to white flies, aphids or powdery mildew.
This year I also tried lemon cucumbers in my greenhouse. These are round, tennis ball-sized cukes that are considered “heirloom” plants. FYI heirloom plants are those that have been passed down through generations and are not hybrids. Many heirloom varieties have been preserved by home gardeners who, year after year, have been rescuing seeds from family gardens.
I found lemon cucumber plants in small pots at MD Nursery in Driggs. This year I saw them on sale for the first time. These cukes don’t taste like lemons, but owe their name to their bright yellow color and shape. They look like lemons and taste like cucumber. Although the plants aren’t big enough to harvest yet, a gardener who grows them tells me the taste is slightly sweeter than traditional cucumbers, and they have a cool, crunchy texture.
As with any type of cucumber you can grow, the plants need even moisture, or they may be oddly shaped or have bad tasting fruits.
That hot summer was good for growing grapevines such as cucumbers and summer squash. I wonder what is ahead of us for gardening in the mountain climate in the coming summers.