Friday, August 14, 2020

Difference between Armenian-type cucumbers

Other than color, there are a number of similarities and differences between the Light Armenian, the Dark Armenian and the Striped Armenian (or Painted Serpent) cucumber melon.

The similarities between all three of these cucumbers is that they are all melons. As such, they prefer warmer weather and will grow very well in the heat. Each of them grows a long cucumber, though based on breeding one variety may end up longer than the other. Each have very visible fuzz when the cucumbers are small, that becomes less noticeable as the fruit fills out. Each of them grows cucumbers that are bitter-free and don’t cause indigestion – unless there is a genetic fluke that makes the melon plant produce bitter melons.

 As for differences, I’ll start with the light, or regular, Armenian cucumber. The light Armenian cucumber is one of the fastest producing cucumbers. Though it requires warm soil, once established, the plant grows very quickly. The plant produces a lot of fruit quickly, then deteriorates quickly. Unlike other cucumber-melons, regular Armenian cucumbers have minimal resistance to some regular cucumber diseases such as cucumber mosaic virus. This variety is the least disease resistant. As for the fruit of the light Armenian, it usually starts out tender and dry. Over time, the fruit becomes more juicy. However, at the same time as the fruit grows, it becomes harder. Thus, for fresh eating the gardener should pick the fruit when the diameter is no wider than they can fit around from thumb to forefinger or to middle finger. Anything wider is going to end up very crunchy, yet also very hard. Those who like mature Armenian cucumbers don’t care if there are hard seeds or if the flesh (especially the outer flesh) is hard. Trying to find the balance between small and tender and large and juicy can be very difficult as the fruit grows incredibly quickly. Thus, those who want a high-quality cucumber may have to do more checking for fruit than they would for other plants. This cucumber is very similar in many ways to summer squash. Sometimes the cucumber is only in “prime” picking stage for a day or two.

The dark Armenian cucumber is somewhere in the middle. It grows vines and fruit a little slower than the light Armenian, but it also has greater disease resistance. It is usually resistant to cucumber mosaic virus, but if stressed it will quickly succumb to powdery mildew. This variety has fruit that begins tender and dry when young, while becoming more juicy and slightly more stiff as it grows. The window of time that this variety can be picked and still be sliced is longer than the light Armenian. The dark fruit definitely has a wider window picking. Usually its prime picking stage is at least a couple days up to a whole week.

The striped Armenian cucumber is the very slowest of them all. This variety takes a lot longer to germinate, grow and produce. The sprawling vines grow quite a ways out and the plant produces larger leaves than the other two varieties. This variety also has the greatest disease and climate resistance. While powdery mildew resistant cucumbers succumb to the fungus, this cucumber variety will keep growing and producing. The beautiful striped cucumbers that are produced on the plant begin dry and crisp and seem to become more tender, yet remaining crisp and tender as they grow. The plants will often grow to a specified thickness and length, then slowly widen and lengthen. The prime picking stage for this variety is usually around a week – unless the plant has grown very big and there is only one fruit on the vine. Of all the cucumber-melon varieties I have grown, this one is the most resistant to the cold. This variety will often continue to produce fruit right up until the first frost. Its ability to hold onto live is much greater than the other two varieties.

So that is it. Though some others may have had different experiences with their Armenian cucumbers, this has been my experience with these three varieties so far. If you decide to try all three in your garden at one time, you may discover some of the similarities and differences for yourself.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Passion Flower Butterfly

While visiting with a friend of mine, I noticed a vine along the fence line with their neighbor. The friend said that it was a passionfruit vine and that the neighbor really liked the fruit. Along with the neighbor enjoying the fruit, I also noticed something else – butterflies.

Over the last several years, I have been noticing passionfruit/flower butterflies a lot more. The butterfly uses the passionfruit vine as its main foodsource from egg to butterfly. Then the butterflies sip nectar from flowers while completing their lifecycle by mating and looking for more food sources.

At the school where I have an office is the garden bed where I took most of these photos. It is important to appreciate the insects that are an integral part of our survival. If living spaces and outdoors continue to be bombarded with toxic substances with the intent to kill off insects, we may find that the bees that are necessary to agriculture can no longer survive. Then what will become of us?

The shell of a passionflower butterfly's chrysalis

Sometimes just letting things be is the best solution. At one of the high schools where I work, I noticed a bunch of passionflower butterflies flying around the corner of the parking lot. Sure enough, there is a giant, weedy passionflower that spreads across the fence and over nearby foliage in a very dominating fashion. The area is alive with butterflies.

So in short, insects are important. Perhaps a person may not like them in his home, his food or his garden. However, when anyone eliminates nature from the equation, they also eliminate life. 

Thursday, August 6, 2020

2019 Dingess Purple Sweet Potato Harvest

At the beginning of 2019 I took a very different approach to growing out my purple sweet potatoes. Instead of growing them outside, I decided it made more sense to try growing them in my greenhouse. I grew them for the majority of the time from May to November.

The main way that I decided to water these plants is by using my easy ollas. This strategy worked for keeping the plants, but once the plants grew to the extent they could (based on the water input) the vines stopped spreading out. I added a little bit of additional water and added some EM1.

By the time October came around, I finally found the time to clean the many spiderwebs from inside of the greenhouse. In doing this, I created an opportunity for some kind of moth to establish itself. Over the next month, the moth devastated the leaves of the sweet potato plants.

When harvesting the Dingess purple sweet potatoes, I discovered that the roots really worked hard to utilize every single drop that they could get. Based on the limited water provided and the minimal fertility of the soil, the harvest was very small. If this was all I had to harvest, I would have been very sad.

One of the wonderful things about gardening is the opportunity to make the most of bad situations. One of these situations I experienced was in repeatedly replanting tomato plants in a spot of ground that kept getting splashed with chlorinated water from our pool. Following multiple failed attempts to have tomato plants survive chlorine burns and chlorinated soil, I decided to grow some sweet potatoes in the plot. As this was in late July, I didn’t expect much. Other than watering them and spreading five gallons of partially-finished compost on the plants once, I did little else to keep the plant alive.

Each year, my family looks forward to my purple sweet potato pie. After uncovering the minuscule harvest in the greenhouse, I was hoping that the harvest outside would be a little better.


To my delight, I harvested about three pounds of very dark Dingess Purple sweet potatoes. In addition to the darker color, the flavor of this harvest was incredible. I believe the majority of this is due to the compost (which contains high levels of worm castings). 

Given that my sweet potatoes were planted in late July, I was very grateful for what I received. I believe the plant I put in this spot was from a very small plant I had started in the greenhouse. Based on my experience, I will definitely use this strategy to grow out my sweet potatoes in the future.

 My family's favorite purple sweet potato recipe comes from Stokes.

Here is the original recipe that I still use.
Stokes has since changed their online sweet potato pie recipe.