Principles for selecting the best Cucumber Variety
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The selection of a cucumber variety is crucial and must be taken after considering numerous factors. One of the most important is the end use of the product and the targeted market. Cucumber is used as:
- Fresh (whole or sliced) and
It is generally recommended that farmers try several varieties to determine which ones yield and taste better and have better disease and insect tolerance in their field. Disease resistance, which varies considerably between varieties, should be considered, particularly regarding powdery mildew and Fusarium wilt. Unfortunately, until today, no variety has shown resistance to insects or nematodes.
Most varieties are monoecious, meaning they produce female (pistillate) and male (staminate) flowers and require pollinating insects to produce fruit. Pollination takes place with the help of insects like bees.
Many varieties of cucumbers have been cultivated for hundreds or even thousands of years. For example, the variety “China Jade” was bred in 2016. More recently, during the 15th century, varieties like “Painted Serpent” started to get cultivated, while “Russian” cucumbers started to get cultivated in the United States in the 1800s (6). After centuries of research and trials (selective breeding), about 100 varieties have been created, many of which are consumed today.
Nowadays, most cucumber hybrids used for commercial cultivation are gynoecious or “all female flowers.” In this case, the plants produce female flowers at a 95% rate, and among their advantages is the earliness, higher yields, and resistance to diseases.
Some varieties can produce seedless fruits (cucumbers) without pollinating the female flowers (parthenocarpic fruit). These varieties are used more in greenhouse cultivation since they must be isolated from other cucumber varieties and their pollen. Some typical examples are the: Diva, Excelsior, Sugar Crunch, or SV4719CS.
Cucumbers are divided into two main categories based on their use. More specifically:
- Cucumis sativus is consumed fresh (slicing cucumber) in salads and several dishes. This type of cucumber has softer flesh, thicker skin, and is long and slender.
- Cucumis anguria is a pickling cucumber, much smaller than the first one.
Fresh/sliced Cucumber varieties
The fresh/sliced Cucumber varieties are mainly cultivated in gardens. One of the most important requirements is the uniformity of the fruits.
- The English or European cucumber is the most commercially used type for fresh consumption. It is large, with dark green and thin skin and few or no seeds. Other important varieties are:
- Persian cucumbers: They have thin skin and mild taste, and are shorter and fatter than the hothouse, English cucumbers and are crunchy to eat.
Other commonly cultivated varieties of are the: Salad Bush (hybrid), Straight Eight, Sweet Slice, Sweet Success (hybrid), Burpless (hybrid), Diva (hybrid), Sugar Crunch (hybrid), SV4719CS (hybrid), and Poinsett 76, Dasher 11, Sweet Success, Sweet Slice (burpless), Burpee (hybrid), Bush Champion (suitable for containers), Parks Bush Whopper (container), Pot Luck (container only), Salad Bush (suitable for containers), Spacemaster (bush, ideal for containers), Slice Nice, Slice Master (hybrid).
Some varieties that have been bred require a more frequent pruning of side and/or lateral shoots than others. This process aims to ensure a single stem that can be trained up vertical wires. Generally, modern hybrids are less vigorous and need less pruning.
Pickling Cucumber varieties
Cucumber varieties that are used for pickling need to produce smaller and thicker fruits. The bumpy-skinned gherkin is considered to be the best pickling variety.
Some commonly used varieties are the following:
- Japanese cucumbers: This type is dark green and narrow. Their skin is thin with small bumps on it. People can eat them whole.
- Kirby cucumbers: They are often used for dill pickles. Kirby cucumbers are crispy, and their skin is thin and has small seeds.
- Armenian, or snake cucumbers: They are long and twisted, and their skin is thin, dark, and green with pale furrows. When ripe, the skin color becomes yellowish. They are often used for pickling.
Other important varieties of this category are the following: Fancipak (hybrid), Calypso, Carolina, County Fair, Homemade Pickles, Max Pack (hybrid), Excelsior (hybrid), Regal, Sumter, Liberty (hybrid), Saladin, County Fair 83, Pickle Bush (compact, suitable for containers), Pot Luck (container only).
Lemon cucumbers are another variety that has the size of a lemon and is roundish with pale skin. It has a sweet and delicate taste and can be used both for raw consumption and pickled.
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