When is a cucumber not a cucumber? When it’s an Armenian cucumber. Intrigued? Keep reading about this cucumber that’s actually a melon.
As the name implies, the Armenian cucumber is native to Armenia. Though they didn’t start growing in America until the early 20th century when Armenians fleeing genocide brought them to California, they date back as far as the 15th century.
The scientific name for the Armenian cucumber is Cucumis melo var. flexuosus, making it a variety of muskmelon or honeydew (Cucumis melo). So why is it called a cucumber and not an Armenian muskmelon? The simple answer – it looks like a cucumber.
Characteristics of Armenian Cucumbers
The Armenian cucumber, also known as the snake cucumber, yard-long cucumber, and cucumber melon, looks like a cucumber in that it is long, green, and tubular-shaped. The skin itself has deep ridges with light and dark green stripes, making a pretty display when sliced.
When the fruit is young, the skin has a little bit of fuzzy texture, but that is easily rubbed off.
How to Grow Armenian Cucumbers
If you’ve ever planted a garden, or had a neighbor or family member who gardens and shares their extras with you, then you know that cucumbers are pretty easy to grow. The Armenian cucumber is no exception. This plant is heat tolerant and can be grown in zones 4-12.
Armenian cucumbers can be started indoors and planted after the first frost, but they prefer to be direct-seeded.
Choose a sunny site in your yard and till the soil. Now is a good time to incorporate an all-in-one fertilizer into the soil.
Mark out your rows and plant your seeds 1/2″ deep and 6-8″ apart. You can also use a walk-behind seeder that will automatically drop the seeds for you at the perfect distance.
After planting your seeds, cover them over and give them a good drink of water. The seeds will germinate and you’ll start to see plants in a few days.
When watering your plants, avoid getting water on the leaves as this can encourage leaf diseases. Water your plants early in the morning, focusing on the roots. This allows the sun to dry the plants off quickly, helping avoid diseases. For no-guess fertilizing when watering, add this Bubble Fertilizer to your routine.
After your plants grow to about 6″ tall, be sure to add a good layer of mulch to keep the soil moist.
Trellis, Ground, or Container
Armenian cucumbers can be left to grow on the ground or you can grow them on a trellis. They also grow well in a container if you don’t have the space for a garden.
Cucumbers grown on the ground should be thinned to about 36″ apart to give the vines plenty of room to grow. When grown on the ground, they will tend to curl, earning the name snake cucumber.
For straighter fruit, thin your plants to 12-18″ and grow them on a trellis. Trellising your plants makes weeding and harvesting easier, and makes them less susceptible to disease.
You can also grow Armenian cucumbers in a container. Make sure you choose a sunny, warm spot. Choose a large container that holds plenty of water and soil, and add a trellis for your plants to grow up. Containers tend to dry out quickly, so pay close attention to how much water your plant is getting.
Pests and Diseases
Armenian cucumbers are prone to the same types of diseases and pests as other cucumbers and melons, such as mosaic virus and powdery mildew. To help prevent these diseases, don’t overwater your plants, and be sure to keep your garden weeded.
Some gardeners also use milk spray, a 50/50 mix of water and milk, once a week on the foliage to help prevent powdery mildew.
Cucumber beetles are nasty little buggers that can destroy your crop in no time. Not only do they chew your leaves, but they also carry bacterial wilt. To help repel cucumber beetles plant radishes or nasturtiums with your cucumbers.
If you do spot evidence of cucumber beetles, or any other pests, on your plants the most effective way to remove them is by hand. Visit your garden early in the morning and wearing gloves, remove them from your plants. You can drop them in soapy water, or if you have chickens, they would love to eat them!
For the best-tasting fruit, harvest your Armenian cucumbers when they are between 8-12″ long. They can grow up to 3′ long, which is perfect to collect seeds for next year’s garden. But, you definitely don’t want to eat them as they tend to be tough and bitter when left to grow that big.
How Does it Taste?
We know now that an Armenian cucumber is not actually a cucumber. But, what about the taste? Does it taste like a melon or a cucumber or something entirely different?
Though it tastes more like a mildly sweet cucumber, when sliced the Armenian cucumber smells a little like a melon. It is crisp like a cucumber and has small transparent seeds that are edible.
Armenian Cucumber Recipes
Armenian cucumbers can be sliced and eaten as a snack, or try making this simple Armenian Cucumber Salad.
Next time you have a recipe that calls for cucumber, try substituting an Armenian cucumber, like in this Cucumber and Avocado Sushi.
Where to Buy Armenian Cucumber Seeds
Armenian cucumbers can be purchased at international markets and may even be found in the specialty produce section at your larger grocery stores or even a farmer’s market. Don’t confuse them with an English cucumber. The Armenian is a lighter shade of green, usually thinner, and has a sweeter taste than the English cucumber.
To have an abundance of Armenian cucumbers to eat and share with friends and family, order your premium garden seeds from Hoss.
The Armenian Cucumber – Technically a Melon
Cucumber or melon, the Armenian Cucumber is definitely worth planting in your garden this year. Visit our Cucumber Page for information on cucumbers that are actually cucumbers.