Friday, July 12, 2024

The Conquered Conqueror Cucumber

I received seeds of a parthenocarpic cucumber variety from the Seed Saver’s Exchange collection by the name of Conqueror. It was supposed to be an English variety that was parthenocarpic. English cucumber varieties are prized for being good to grow in greenhouses and parthenocarpic varieties would be ideal in those conditions because the vines produce fruit without pollination.




Unfortunately, something about the climatic conditions of 2023 along with a nearby pumpkin patch that overwintered cucumber beetle pupae all combined to make the situation for the Conqueror cucumber harvest dismal at best.




Every week I was fighting the cucumber beetles. I even purchased sticky traps that did not work and pheromones that didn’t work either. In the end, the endeavor was a nearly complete loss. I did manage to collect seed from one or two fruit, but the amount and quality of seed was much less than I would have anticipated in the number of plants that I was growing.








So, I will likely try growing the Conqueror Cucumber again. Hopefully this next time, they will at least be given a fighting chance.

Friday, July 5, 2024

Growing at an Organic Olive Orchard

A friend of mine, Mike Wilkinson, referred me to a grower named Nick at a local Organic Olive Orchard in Suisun Valley in the Fairfield area. He made room for me to grow some cucumbers in the spring of 2023. The area is incredibly fertile and beautiful. He made a row of land available for me to grow on.
























Over the season I grew one kind of regular cucumber and two overlapping varieties of cucumber-melon. The season at the Olive Orchard took a lot out of me and by the end, I was pretty tired out.

Friday, June 28, 2024

Minuncedda di Sternatia

What shall I say about the Minuncedda di Sternatia? First, I must mention something about the name. The majority of the names of various melons picked immature as cucumbers in Italy are given names according to this pattern: 1. Fruit name in the local dialect 2. From 3. Location. Thus “Minuncedda” is the name given to this cucumber-melon and “di Sternatia” means “from Sternatia”.


Second, this is one of the varieties that I definitely misjudged. On looking at the initial pictures of the variety, I thought that it was some kind of inferior Spuredda Leccese, but after my friend Giuseppe grew them out and shared pictures with me, I could tell that they were much more. He spoke of their beauty, productivity and flavor so highly, that I had to try them out. Honestly, the pictures that I took of this variety don’t do it justice. This is an extremely delicious and productive cucumber-melon variety. Given the space that it occupied and the few plants that grew in the space, the variety did extremely well.

I generally plan to have my plants ready in the greenhouse to plant out around May 1st. In 2023, early May was exceptionally cold and still a bit wet. It was also windy. At first, the original planting of my Sternatia looked like it would be okay, but when I came back a week or two later all of the transplants had perished.

I germinated some new seed, planted the sprouted seed into soil blocks in the greenhouse, then after a week or two planted them into the raised bed. It was early June before the plants looked like they normally would in early May.

Fortunately, despite all the setbacks, the plants grew quickly. The Sternatia demonstrates some of the most vigorous growth that I have encountered in cucumber-melons. The color is dark or dark with splotched stripes. There is some variation in the color that is narrow enough that I will likely never go through the work of selecting one variation over another. The cylindrical shape was pretty consistent as well. It seems that the trait that was most variable in this variety is the fruit length.

Overall, I would have to say that the Sternatia was definitely one of my favorite varieties of 2023 and one of my definite favorite varieties overall. Now, when people ask about what varieties to try for flavor and productivity, I recommend the Minuncedda di Sternatia.