Friday, August 19, 2011

The Most Notable Armenian in Wilmington: A Cucumber

It is not often that we come across a mystery vegetable here at Grow Food, Grow Hope. Actually, it’s never happened. We pride ourselves on being well versed in the many varietals of edible plants. Even if there is a vegetable or fruit that we have not tried ourselves, through our collective knowledge, we can at least look at something and identify it. This was not the case yesterday though, when two VISTAs returned from a harvest with a handful of… well, we weren’t sure what.

Questions abounded as to what it could be. The possibilities ranged from deformed squash to space food. We quickly decided it was not space food but we were no closer to an answer. Someone suggested that it may be an English Cucumber. But we Googled ‘english cucumber’ and saw that no English Cucumber in the history of English Cucumbers had ever looked like the strange vegetable we had picked.

The pale green vegetable had come from the home of Ian
Ziegler who had donated a parcel of his land to GFGH, the produce from which is donated to local food pantries. It had been about two weeks since anyone had been there to check on the progress of his garden and this mysterious vegetable had not fully developed at the time. There was some speculation that it was a deformed fluke, but every cucumber-like thing growing around it looked the same and the vines and flowers that surrounded it looked like cucumber or some other member of the squash family. What’s more, we were pretty sure we had planted cucumbers when we broke ground in May. This long, pale green fruit that had developed was like no other cucumber we had seen though.

We searched other terms hoping to find a name for it. We finally tried the search term ‘pale
green cucumber’ and discovered that it was called an Armenian Cucumber. Upon further investigation though, we learned that it was a cucumber in outward appearance only. It is
actually classified as a melon and has a sweeter taste than a cucumber and smaller seeds. It is not generally regarded as being good for pickling, but it is apparently good in sushi and on cucumber sandwiches. It has a thin outer skin and is often curved.

Armenian Cucumbers can get up to 24 inches long, but they are best enjoyed at about 15 inches. The ones we picked were between 15 and 20 inches, so they were ripe for the picking. The only question now was, ‘are they any good?’ They looked just exotic enough that we were concerned people would be unwilling to try them. We needed to have a taste test.

Someone quickly located a cutting board and a knife and the
oddity was rinsed. We then headed outdoors and conducted our slicing ceremony. Within seconds, the Armenian Cucumber was deemed a hit! It was sweet and smooth tasting and had a good density- not too wet, not mushy. It was just right. If you get a chance to try one for yourself, don’t pass it up. As for the crew at GFGH, we’re spreading the word about this amazing fruit. We want everyone to experience it, so we are headed out to the Ziegler farm in the coming days to pick some more, which will be donated along with the first bunch to pantries in the area.

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