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5 Weeks Later

July 7th, 2011

I was out checking on the cucumbers last week and noticed that they were blooming, they were. I’m amazed by how fast things grow in the summer. I guess that’s good thing or us northern gardeners would never be able to eat summer squash, cucumbers or tomatoes. I can hardly wait to start harvesting cucumbers and pickle them. I’m especially excited to try making cornichons with the Fin de Meaux. (see this post for a description of the varieties of cucumbers I’m growing this season).

This is what the cucumbers looked like on May 30 when I seeded them:

And this is what they looked like yesterday:

The race is on to see if the cucumbers come ripe before I go on vacation. I’m hoping to have all kinds of pickles in the pantry for winter eating!

What vegetables are almost ready to harvest in your garden?

Inspired by Monticello

May 31st, 2011

Last week I was getting ready to plant my cucumbers and was contemplating what kind of supports I wanted to use. The last two years I have used bamboo stakes and they have never been quite long enough or quite sturdy enough. As I was standing in the garden thinking, I remembered my visit to Monticello last summer. I took a lot of photos of the various forms of plant supports because I loved how they used natural materials.

Since we’re clearing out that new garden, I have more than enough saplings and small trees for using at plant supports. I cut 12 small trees and made 3 structures for my cucumbers. I planted one variety of cucumber on each trellis. I planted 4 seeds at the base of each leg and I will let the 3 best ones grow.

In previous years I’ve only grown one type of pickle ‘Boston Pickling’. I’ve always been happy with it, but this year I wanted to try a few others. The varieties of cucumbers I’m growing for the 2011 season:

Solly Beiler – This cucumber makes superior pickles when harvested at about the size of your thumb. Spectacularly productive in our trials, the plants yield very uniform fruits, which at full maturity are russeted like a Poona Kheera. Stays crisp and mild even at larger sizes. Developed in the 1930’s by Solomon “Solly” Beiler, then a bishop in the Beachy Amish Mennonite Church, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Our original seed was furnished by Martin J. Hughes, a present day member of the same church in Elmira, New York (source: Baker Creek)

Fin de Meaux – Slender, little green fruit are picked when 2 inches long and are used to make delicious cornichon pickles. A popular French variety that is hard to find. Very productive plants bear fruit that is darker green than most types. (source: Baker Creek)

Boston Pickling – Plant produces heavy yields of small 6″ long pickling type cucumbers. This variety has been grown by home gardeners for generations. Perfect for making pickles, but also good in salads. Harvest cucumbers when they are 2″ to 6″ long. (source: originally from Baker Creek but they longer carry them)

The square around the base of each trellis is probably about 4 foot by 4 foot. In the middle of each square I seeded a variety of lettuces in decorative squares. I thought the shade provided by the cucumber vines would help keep the lettuce a little cooler.

I don’t grow any eating cucumbers as neither Mr Chiots or I eat them. Cucumbers give me indigestion, even the burpless variety, so I’ve never really enjoyed eating them. I do make a variety of pickles, from sweet to fermented dill and I’m certainly looking forward to stashing lots of pickles in the pantry to winter eating!

Do you grow pickling cucumbers, regular cucumbers, or both? What varieties do you grow?

Planning Ahead for Fall

August 26th, 2010

About a month ago I started a new round of cucumber seeds hoping for a great fall harvest to fill the pantry with all varieties of pickles. Cucumber plants don’t like the heat of summer, they prefer temperatures in the 70’s, yet they can’t take a frost. Since we have hot hot summers here in Ohio, cucumbers seem to languish once the temperatures hit the mid 80’s, which is usually right after they start producing. Since this summer has been a particularly hot one, my cucumbers quit producing about a month ago, although I did get almost 2 gallons of pickles from my five plants. This year, I decided to try to grow a fall crop of cucumbers, I’m hoping that they get through their productive season and I’ll have tons of cucumbers to pickle in late September, let’s hope we don’t get and early frost.

I started a whole flat of cucumbers back in July, hoping to get a large number of cucumbers at once so I can make a few large batches of fermented pickles. The seed packet says they take about 57 days to produce, which should be just about right. I transplanted them 2 weeks ago. I planted about 15 plants at my mom’s house and about 20 plants here in my raised beds in the back garden.

I’m once again growing ‘Boston Pickling’ Cucumbers since I really like them. I’ve actually never grown another variety, this is the first I’ve tried and I’m very happy with the pickles that I make from them. This year I’m trying to save a few seeds for them since the place I order most of my seeds from no longer carries them. Not to mention I’ll be saving myself a few dollars, I’ll make sure I post all about it and offer some free seeds.

I’ve read that a lot of gardeners grow second crops of beans and of zucchini to extends the harvests. I tried beans last year, but an early fall frost did them in right when they were starting to produce. It’s always hard to time second crops in a short growing season and with the drastic weather changes we can have here in NE Ohio, but seeds are cheap so I’ll keep trying!

Do you have any crops you grow a second round of for fall harvests?

Cucumbers, Pickles or Both?

July 21st, 2010

Some people love cucumbers, some people hate them. I don’t like eating cucumbers, they give me indigestion in the worst way, even the so called “burpless” ones. I grow them, however because I LOVE them made into pickles. Somehow the process of fermenting them makes them so much more digestible for me.

In my garden I have had great luck growing ‘Boston Pickling’ cucumbers. This year I’m also growing ‘Marketmore’ cucumbers to see what they’re like. Last year I grew lemon cucumbers, but wasn’t as fond of them as I am of the Bostons.

The problem with making pickles when you have a small garden is that you usually harvest 4-5 cucumbers at a time, and most recipes call for pounds and pounds of pickles. Last year, I found a recipe for Small Batch Dill Pickles in The Joy of Pickling. They were very tasty, and I ended up making a few batches. If you only have a few pickles I’d highly recommend using this recipe, it makes a zesty dill pickle.

I picked a few cucumbers on Monday to make into pickles. I debated using a recipe from last year that I knew I liked, but being an adventurous cook that loves loves to try new recipes, I decided to use the dill pickle recipe from the book Canning & Preserving with Ashley English.

I’ll let you know what I think of these pickles, they’re brining as I write this post and won’t be ready for eating for a few weeks. The hardest parking of making pickles is waiting for them to age!

What’s your favorite way to enjoy cucumbers?

Baby Cucumbers on the Vine

June 28th, 2009

This is my first year for growing cucumbers, mostly because I don’t particularly like eating cucumbers. I do however like pickles, so I decided to grow cucumbers to make pickles. I chose Boston Pickling Cucumbers from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They’re described as: an old heirloom dating back to 1880, vigorous vines give large yields of smooth green fruit. It is excellent for pickles, very crisp and good quality. A very popular variety at the turn of the century.
I love the tiny little cukes that are at the base of the female flowers, of course these won’t become cucumbers unless they’re pollinated. I’m looking forward to a good harvest to make pickles. I don’t have a favorite pickle recipe since I’ve never really made them (only zucchini cucumbers), so I’m looking for one of those. I have dill growing in the front garden for the pickles, and I’ll be using some of my homegrown garlic as well.

Anyone have a great pickle recipes?

Reading & Watching

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.