Cucumbers – contain very little nutritional content, require lots of nitrogen and are not very drought tolerant. But on the plus side, certain types are high producers. There are a lot of hybrid cucumber seeds on the market. So when buying your seed be sure to be aware of what your buying hybrid or heirloom.
Not drought tolerant – cucumber roots run just under the ground. When the top of the soil dries out, the cucumber leaves may start to wilt. Allowing the leaves to wilt may stunt the growth of the plant.
Nitrogen – cucumbers LOVE nitrogen. Without it, the cucumber does not form properly and will be pointed on the end.
My personal cucumber seed stockpile includes 2 types – the pickling cucumber and the straight 8.
Pickling cucumber – is a high producing plant and makes a cucumber maybe 3 – 4 inches long. Despite its name, the Pickling cucumber does not have to be “pickled”, it can be eaten just like it is. But its small size makes it an ideal cucumber for Pickling. Pickling cucumber are an heirloom types, meaning the seeds can be saved and used in next years garden. Just 1 or 2 of these cucumbers makes a good side dish for a meal.
Straight 8 – makes a larger cucumber then the Pickling cucumber, and grows to about 8 inches long. Thus the name, Straight 8. The Straight 8 is an heirloom type cucumber so that the seeds can be saved from year to year.
Nutritional Value – What a lot of people do not know – the skin of the cucumber holds the majority of the nutritional content. Once the skin is removed, the cucumber has almost no nutritional value, except water. Because of its lack of nutritional content, do not look at the cucumber as a primary food source. Consider it more like a side dish.
Cucumber can be picked and eaten at anytime during their developmental phases – but its best to pick and eat the cucumber when its immature. If the cucumber is left on the vine for too long, the seeds will start to harden. Eating the cucumber with hard seeds makes for a unpleasant experience.
Hybrid Cucumbers – there are a lot of different types of cucumbers on the market, and a lot of them are hybrids. Depending on whether you want to save the seeds or not, hybrid cucumbers might be ok for your needs.
High producers – cucumbers are what I call a high producing plant. As long as they have fertilizer, water, and other positive conditions, they just keep producing and producing.
A couple of years ago I planted 4 or 5 cucumber plants – not 4 or 5 rows, just 4 or 5 plants. My wife and I had so many cucumbers we were giving them away and work and even giving them to the neighbors. Every few days we were picking handfuls of the smaller pickling cucumbers. When the soil ran out of nitrogen and the cucumbers started to get pointed on the end, I threw some 21-0-0 fertilizer around them and they started producing again.
Trade items post SHTF – even though cucumbers have almost no nutritional content, I look at cucumbers in 2 ways – side dishes to a meal and as a trade item. We have already discussed eating cucumbers, so lets move onto the trading topic.
Cucumbers offer 3 ways to be traded:
Trading the seeds – when you leave a pickling cucumber on the vine to ripen and produce seeds, it might produce 100+ seeds. Its like a single cucumber can produce 2 handfuls of seeds. A cucumber that is supposed to be 3 – 4 inches long and 1.25 inches when you eat it, swells to 6 – 8 inches long and 3 inches across.
Having a stockpile of reproducing heirloom / open pollinated seeds provides you with an unlimited resource to trade with.
When spring comes around, dedicate a couple of vines to nothing but seed production. With just a few cucumbers left on the vine for seed production, your probably going to get hundreds of seeds in return.
Keep in mind that under the right conditions, pickling cucumbers are a high producing plant. All you need is maybe 4, 5, 6,,, 8 plants to keep your family in steady supply. With hundreds of seeds to trade with, your not going to miss a few dozen for trade items.
To harvest the seeds from the cucumber, let a couple of the cucumbers over-ripen on the vine, until they turn an orange color and burst open. It might sound a little gross, but my best success with harvesting and replanting cucumber seeds have come from digging through the rotting remains of a cucumbers that got so big that they burst open and started to rot. This ensures that the seeds were given as much time as possible to mature.
Trade pickled cucumbers – if you have a supply of jars and a way to pickle cucumbers, why not trade the final product? As long as you have plenty for you and your family to eat over the winter, use the excess for trade.
Trade the cucumbers themselves – hey neighbor, I see you have some extra eggs. Are you willing to trade some eggs for some cucumbers? How about one of those chickens? I’ll give you 100 cucumber seeds, a dozen cucumbers and 5 jars of pickles for 2 chickens.