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Cool as a Cucumber!

The saying may be, "Cool as a cucumber," but the reality is it takes lots of hot days to grow that cool cucurbit we all love. Versatile, tasty, nutritious, and ethnically diverse, the cucumber is a popular food item in almost every culture. There are three main varieties of cucumber—slicing, pickling, and the burpless/seedless kind, of which several cultivars have been created.

In Fresno County, the Armenian cucumber is a popular burpless cultivar, brought here by immigrant Armenian farmers decades ago. In our area, it has become THE sought-after summer-time cucumber. We sell a lot of Armenian cucumbers, or Guta (the Armenian word for them), at our Fruit Stand. Not typically found in grocery stores, most consumers can find them at Fruit Stands, Farmers Markets, or from backyard gardeners. The light green, lightly ribbed cucumber has a mild flavor, minimal seeds and is even used in some cultures to make pickles. In fact, we have sold the Armenian cucumber to make Swedish and Japanese pickles, as well as the dill-based Armenian pickles. My mother-in-law used the Armenian cucumbers to make her amazing Bread-and-Butter pickles.

Ah, but nothing beats a nice summer salad made with fresh cucumbers, sweet red onion and vine-ripened tomatoes, dressed with a nice balsamic vinaigrette. For fun, we’ll throw in sweet raw corn cut off the cob. It's a summer staple in our house!

We start about 150 Armenian cucumber plants from seed in March, and transplant them to the field behind the stand in April. We start harvesting the cucumbers in June and will continue until we close in early September. Next to the cucumber, squash and melon rows, we plant ornamental sunflowers and zinnias, which we also sell. The flowers bring in the bees, which are needed to pollinate all of the cucurbits. To help ensure a good crop, we need the warm-to-hot temperatures that are so frequent in San Joaquin Valley summers. The hot dry days and warm overnights provide the heat units to make tasty fruits and vegetables, like the cucumber.

So while cucumbers may end up being pretty cool, we need those hot days to produce those cool cukes!

Liz, her husband Earl, their grown children and their families make up Hudson Farms, a fifth-and sixth-generation family farm in Sanger, CA.

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