One of the Joys of Maturity
A Cucumber of Distinction
I came scarily close to losing one of my favorite garden varieties this year. Only one seed of the Japanese Long Pickling variety of cucumber germinated this spring. Of course, one is all it takes, but it was close.
I got my original start on Japanese Long Pickling cucumber seeds from Stokes Seeds long ago. Stokes quit carrying the open pollinated variety several years ago in favor of some hybrid or another. But I've not found a cucumber its equal for making bread and butter pickles.
The Japanese Long Pickling variety of cucumbers produces abundant crops of long, thin and often straight fruit when trellised. The fruit easily grow to 16-20" long while remaining thin and tender enough for slicing for pickles or table use.
We put out our single Japanese Long Pickling cucumber plant this year after clearing our early peas off the trellis and renovating the soil a bit. Since the T-posts and trellis were in place, I just worked in a good bit of lime and some triple 12 fertilizer before transplanting the precious plant with a trowel and mulching it in with grass clippings.
I let the first two fruits the plant produced get large and yellow before picking them to save them for seed. Doing so risked having the plant stop producing fruit, but I got away with it. Since we have all the cucumbers we need for now (canned pickles keep forever), I'm going to let the plant really ripen some fruit on the vine for more saved seed.
One last thing - I did find a supplier that carries the Japanese Long Pickling variety online. Reimer Seeds out of North Carolina show Japanese Long Pickling as a new variety in their online catalog. Although they're appropriately grouped with pickling cucumbers, I seem to remember from the old Stokes ad that they also fit the burpless category as well. Don't take that as an endorsment of Reimer Seeds, as I've not done business with them and Dave's Garden Watchdog shows a troubling list of negative reviews (28 positives, 12 neutrals, and 74 negatives!).
Update (9/9/2010): Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds also offers Japanese Long cucumber seed. They have a fantastic rating on Dave's Garden. (Thanks to Kathy Taylor for letting me know about Baker Creek offering JLP seed.)
Update (9/30/2012) to the 9/9/2010 update: I grew some of Baker Creek's Japanese Long cucumbers side-by-side with my strain of Japanese Long Picklings this year. Making comparisons and evaluations in a growing season plagued by drought and plant disease is difficult. But my initial impression is that the Baker Creek offering is not the same as our Japanese Long Pickling that originally came from Stokes Seeds. The Japanese Long plants bore tasty cucumbers a bit earlier than our JLPs, but the cukes were also much shorter and considerably larger in diameter. The Baker Creek plants also quickly succumbed to the drought (and possibly powdery mildew), while our JLPs produced for about another month before dying out.
Again, these are initial observations of the two varieties made after a growing season that made plants do all sorts of weird things. I plan growing both again next year, but separated for isolation.
I did a quick germination test on the seed from the first few JLP cucumbers and was thrilled to see that I had viable seed. To do so, I just counted out ten seeds onto a paper towel. I folded the paper towel over the seeds, wet it, and put it in a zip lock freezer bag. Then I set it in a warm space and forgot about it for a week. The warm space was on top of a shoplight, so the seeds picked up some reflected light and show some good green on the shoots. From what I could count, I got eight out of ten seeds to germinate. I'll gladly take 80% germination, especially when this spring I thought I'd lost the variety!
We grew out just two Japanese Long Pickling plants from our saved seed this year to make sure the seed was true to variety. The plants went into the ground in mid-July amongst our late peas along a trellis, so they didn't have all that much of a chance to produce fruit. As you can see at right, we did get the familiar, long, slender cucumbers the variety is supposed to produce. And of course, we saved seed again from one of the cucumbers.
We'll probably offer Japanese Long Pickling cucumber seed for sale via the Seed Savers 2010 Yearbook. To receive the yearbook, one needs to be a member of the Seed Savers Exchange (SSE), a "non-profit organization of gardeners dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds." The SSE also carries a very nice catalog (print and online) of varieties grown out at their Heritage Farm for sale that non-members may use. But if you're really into growing heirloom varieties, you'll want to join and get the annual yearbook of offerings from other members.
While filling a Seed Savers Exchange request for Japanese Long Pickling seed today, I remembered that I had scanned in the original seed packet that contained the last of my commercially supplied cucumber seed. While most of the printed information on the packet isn't really important, the date on the top of the back side of the packet is. It reads, "Jan. 1994 - 95%."
From Steve Wood, the
at Senior Gardening
last updated 9/30/2012