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Cucumbers, Melons & Gourds
The Gourd Family
(Excerpts from "Cucumbers, Melons, and Gourds From Seed To Supper" 2nd Edition)

    Cucurbitaceae The Gourd Family This family includes cucumbers, melons, pumpkins and squash along with utilitarian, decorative and edible gourds. Cucurbitaceae, the Gourd family (sometimes called the marrow family) are affectionately called cucurbits. Cucurbits are vine plants that produce fruit we consume as a vegetable. The fruit ranges in size from tiny marble sized Jumbie pumpkins to 6 foot long giant gourds. Most cucurbit vines are long and rambling. The 'bush' varieties have short and compact vines. The 'semi-bush' varieties are somewhere in the middle. Cucurbits are usually monoecious, producing pollen laden male flowers and seed bearing female flowers on the same plant.

    Cucumbers, cultivated in India and Egypt for over 3000 years, were introduced to Northern Europe by the Greco-Roman culture. Cucumbers, melons and gourds all seem to have originated in southern Asia and Africa. Modern watermelons derive from a north African vine, Citrullus vulgaris, which has been cultivated in the Nile Valley for centuries. It still grows wild in the desert interior supplying water to natives during drought.

    Cucurbits are tender, hungry, sun lovers who like to keep their feet in warm soil with ample moisture and good drainage. Pick a sunny location. Plant cucurbits in hills, drills, or mounds. cucurbits need at least eight hours of full sun each day. Start them from seeds or purchase plants from an established nursery. Give them a lot of room (horizontal or vertical) for their usually sprawling nature. They are not fussy about their soil, but, prefer a well drained sandy loam soil enriched with compost. Cucurbits have hearty appetites and love a deep mulch of compost and vegetation cuttings.


(Excerpts from "Cucumbers, Melons, and Gourds From Seed To Supper"2nd Edition)

     A warm weather crop, cucumbers can be grown on flat land, sloping trellises or fences. Two species are of interest to the home gardener: Cucumis sativus and C. melo Flesuosus group. There are many varieties of cucumber. The fruit is the edible part. Harvest all fruit before the seeds begin to ripen according to the variety.

     The sex life of a cucumber is a bit complex. Monoecious plants have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Gynoecious plants have only female flowers. Androecious plants have only male flowers. Hermaphroditic plant have only hermaphrodite (stamin and pistil together) flowers. Andromonoecious have separate male and hermaphrodite flowers. Didoecious have either only male or only female flowers on one plant. Fortunately, most cultivars are either gynoecious or monoecious. Seed companies generally add a few monoecious seeds to each pack of gynoecious seeds. These seeds are often dyed a different color.

     Cucumbers are labeled as to their disease resistance: M = Mosaic; A = anthracnose; LS = leaf spot; DM = downy mildew; PM = powdery mildew; S = scab; BW = bacterial wilt;  PRSV= papaya ring spot virus; WMV= watermelon mosaic virus; ZYMV= zucchini yellow mosaic virus.
Some of the more common varities are:

Cucumis sativus

Burpee Hybrid II - 55 days - straight 8-inch fruit - gynoecious
(M, DM)
Early Surecrop - 58 days - 8 to 91/2-inch fruit - monoecious - (M, DM)
Gemini 7 - 60 days - 8 to 81/2-inch fruit - monoecious - (A, DM, LS, M, PM, S)
Lemon - 65 days - 2-inch fruit - monoecious
Marketmore 76 - 67 days - 8-inch fruit - monoecious - (M, S, DM, PM)
Poinsett 76 - 63 days - 71/2-inch fruit - monoecious - (A, S, DM, LS, PM) Recommended for hot climates
Salad Bar - 75 days - 8-inch fruit - monoecious
Slicemaster - 55 days - 8-inch fruit - monoecious - (DM, PM, LS, A, S, M)
Straight Eight - 63 days - straight 8-inch fruit - monoecious
Super Slice - 64 days - straight slender 9-inch fruit - monoecious - ( S, M)
Victory Hybrid - 60 days - gynoecious - 8-inch fruit - (A, DM, M, PM, S)
Slicing Oriental Types (Burpless)
Thin skinned, less bitter.
Burpless - 62 days - 10 to 12-inch fruit - monoecious
Orient Express - 64 days - hybrid - (A, CMV, DM, PM, S, WMV)
Sweet Slice - 63 days - straight if trellis grown 10 to 12-inch fruit - burpless - hybrid - (CMV, DM, PM,
Sweet Salada - 65 days - hybrid - (CMV, DM, PM, PRSV, WMV, ZYMV)
Sweet Success - Self fertilizing, seedless, burpless - 14-inch hybrid - (M, S, LS, DM)
Whopper - 55 days - gynoecious - (S, M, LS, A, PM, DM) Pickling
County Fair - 48 days - 3-inch fruit - monoecious - can be sliced (BW, PM, DM, S, M, A, LS)
Earlipik - 53 days - gynoecious, hybrid - 5-inch fruit (PM, M, LS)
Liberty - 56 days - gynoecious, hybrid - 3-inch fruit (DM, M, PM, S)
Lucky Strike - 52 days - gynoecious hybrid
Saladin - 55 days - gynoecious hybrid - 5-inch fruit (BW, M, PM)


Bush Champion - 60 days - 9 to 10-inch fruit - monoecious (M)
Bush Crop - 60 days - hybrid - 7-inch fruit - monoecious
Bush Pickle - 48 days - 4 to 5-inch fruit - monoecious
Patio Pik - gynoecious hybrid - 4-inch fruit (A, DM)
Pot Luck - 58 days - gynoecious dwarf hybrid - 61/2 to 7-inch fruit (M, S)
Salad Bush - 58 days - 8-inch fruit - monoecious (DM, PM, M, S, LS)
Spacemaster - 60 days - dwarf plant - 71/2-inch fruit - monoecious (M)
Cucumis anguria
West Indian Gerkin - 60 days - pickles - 2-inch fruit - very prolific egg shaped, covered with warts and prickles, used in West Indian pickles and soups, inferior to the common cucumber.

Cucumis melo Flexuosus group

Armenian, Japanese cucumber, Snake melon, Snake cucumber, Uri  - 70 days - ribbed light green - 3 feet long - a long skinny melon
Amira - 55 days - CMV, DM, PM - hybrid
Sweet Alphee - 55 - DM, PM - hybrid

Cucumis flexuosum

Snake Cucumber - 90 days - 3 1/2 feet - hollow inside - used raw, cooked or pickled


Selected Cucumber Recipes
(Excerpts from "Cucumbers, Melons, and Gourds From Seed To Supper" 2nd Edition)

      Cucumbers are shallow rooted, requiring irrigation by deep water by flooding, soaking or drip systems, especially in dry climates. Keep the leaves dry to avoid mildew. Avoid moving among the wet leaves. Diseases spread quickly from wet leaf to wet leaf. Water at least twice a week when plants start to flower and set fruit. A shortage of water will result in poor pollination, misshapen fruit, tough skins and large seeds. Drought conditions produce hollow bitter cucumbers

      Cucumbers are ready for harvest 50 to 70 days from planting. Harvest cucumbers according to their size and intended use; slicers for slicing when they are from 5 to 8 inches in length and from 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter; slicers for gerkin style pickles when they are 1.5 to 2 inch long. Harvest by cutting the stem 1/4 inch above the fruit. Try to not trample the vines any more than necessary when harvesting.

       Harvest often and give away or compost the ones you can not use. One ripe cucumber will stop a plant from producing. Cucumbers  become bitter with size and should not be allowed to reach the yellowish stage.

  Thoroughly wash  
4 pounds or 2 quarts 4-inch cucumbers.  
  Pack into hot sterilized quart jars. To each jar, add  
1 tablespoon dill seed or
3 heads fresh or dried dill weed
1 teaspoon whole mixed pickling spices
6 whole black pepper.
  In a 22-quart stainless steel or enamel saucepan, bring to a boil  
6 tablespoons salt
2 cups cider vinegar
4 cups water.
  Fill each jar to within 1/2 inch of the top with the boiling hot vinegar/salt brine. Seal and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.  
Makes 3 quarts.  

  Peel, seed and dice  
1/2 cup cucumber  
  In a small-size bowl, mix with  
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar (or use 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon sugar)
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro (coriander)
1 tablespoon minced red or green jalapeno chili.
  If made ahead, cover and chill up to 3 hours.  
Makes 2/3 cup.  


In Iran, cooks would use a full cup of mint leaves.    
1 European cucumber (about 1 pound)  
  and cut into chunks. Whirl in a blender or food processor with  
1/2 cup regular-strength chicken broth
1/2 cup unflavored nonfat or low-fat yogurt
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves
and 2 tablespoons lime juice
  very smoothly puréed. (If ingredients are not cold enough to make soup cold, add about 1/2 cup ice cubes and whirl until crushed.) Season to taste with  



Makes 3 or 4 servings.


(Excerpts from "Cucumbers, Melons, and Gourds From Seed To Supper" 2nd Edition)

      A warmest weather crop. A great portion of the American melon crop comes from the California central valley where it gets hot. Firebaugh (well named) California has an annual Cantaloupe Festival. If it doesn’t get very hot in your garden, you can plant your melons to grow on your compost pile or place aluminum foil under and around each fruit to reflect the heat.

      As with cucumbers, the sex life of melons is a bit complex. Melons may be andromonoecious (perfect and staminate flowers), gynoecious (pistillate flowers), gynomonoecious (perfect and pistillate flowers), hermaphrodite (perfect flowers), or monoecious (pistillate and staminate flowers). Fortunately for the home gardner, monoecious and andromonoecious are the most common.

      Disease resistant varities are indicated by (F) fusarium wilt and (PM) powdery mildew.
Some of the more common varities are:

Cucumis melo, Cantalupensis Group

NOTE: Cantaloupe - the true cantaloupeis common in Europe and the middle East. It is very similar to the muskmelon. The rinds can be  thick, smooth, scaly, rough and deeply grooved, but not netted. The stem on a ripe true cantaloupe does not slip. The name cantaloupe comes from Cantaluppi, Italy where the plants were first developed.

Cucumis melo, Reticulatus Group

Cantaloupe or Muskmelon
NOTE: Cantaloupe, though botanically incorrect, is used in the English speaking New World to mean muskmelon.
Ambrosia - 86 days - extra sweet, salmon flesh small seed cavity (PM)
Burpee’s Hybrid - 82 days sweet orange flesh
Earlisweet - 70 days - deep salmon flesh numerous 5-inch fruit
Hales Best Jumbo - 87 days - close heavy netting gray-gold rind at maturity - 6 1/2 to & 7 1/2-inch fruit
Honeybush - 82 days - bright salmon flesh (F)
Minnesota Midget - 60 days - very compact vines needs only 3 feet of space - 4-inch fruit
Samson Hybrid - 85 days - heavy high sugar deep orange flesh (F PM)
Super Market - 84 days - deep salmon flesh sandstone rind when ripe - 6 to 7-inch fruit (F, PM)
Sweet ‘n Early - 75 days - really ripening long season - salmon flesh (PM)

Cucumis melo, Inodorus Group

Casaba - Golden Beauty - 110 days - golden rind when ripe, white flesh - needs a long season, hot, dry climate
Crenshaw - 110 days - dark green rind turns yellow when ripe, salmon pink flesh
Burpee Early Hybrid - 90 days - needs hot dry climate
Persian - 95 days - round heavily netted rind, thick orange flesh
Honeydew - 112 days - Creamy white smooth rind with lime green flesh with a golden tinge when ripe
Earli-dew - 80 days - hybrid creamy green rind and lime green flesh

Citrullus vulgaris

Bush Baby II Hybrid - 80 days - bright red flesh - dwarf plants - 10-pound fruit (F and anthracnose)
Charleston Gray - 85 days - red flesh - gray green rind oblong 25 to 35-pound fruit (F and anthracnose)
Crimson Sweet - 80 days - for full season areas -dark red flesh - striped dark green rind - 15 to 25-pound fruit (F and anthracnose)
Sugar Baby - 75 days - early productive ice box variety - medium red flesh - green strip rind turning almost back when ripe - 8-pound fruit
Sweet Favorite - 80 days - bright scarlet flesh - oblong 20-pound fruit
Yellow Baby - 86 days - short-season - thin hard rind with light and dark green stripes - bright yellow flesh - 7-inch round to oval - 10-pound fruit

Melon Harvest and Selected Recipes
(Excerpts from "Cucumbers, Melons, and Gourds From Seed To Supper" 2nd Edition)

      Melons like cucumbers require ample moisture for the growth and fruit setting. During the fruiting ripening stage, however, too much water will diminish the flavor of the melons.

      Harvest when a small crack appears in the stem just above the melon indicating the melon is ripe. What a pity that no stems are ever on super market melons. Feel, sound and smell are the other tests. Hold a melon up to your ear, if you can feel it squeeze and hear a slight mush instead of a crack it is ripe. Smell is something you learn with experience. It works.

      The slipping of the stem from the melon with slight finger pressure is an excellent indicator of melon ripeness in the field. Those fruit that show a change of color from green or olive-grey to yellowish brown should be considered ready to harvest. For best quality, walk the patch daily.
Honeydew: Harvest when the stem end is slightly springy and the skin begins to take on a creamy yellow appearance.
Crenshaw: Harvest when the blossom end begins to soften and the skin is golden ellow and green. The flesh should be a golden pink.
Casaba: Harvest when the skin is slightly golden and the flesh is white.
Persian: Harvest when the skin begins to turn a mauve color under the net, the blossom ends begins to soften and the flesh has a tinge of orange.
Muskmelons: Harvest when firm, well netted, well formed and at “full slip”. Full slip is when the melon separates from the stem with a slight pressure from the finger. Another indicator of ripening is the skin taking on a slightly yellow appearance under the netting.
Watermelon: Harvest when the white background color of the part of the melon that rest on the ground begins to turn creamish to slightly yellow. The drying of the stem tendril nearest the attachment point and green color tone are also indicators of ripeness. Sign vary with cultivars. Always cut a watermelon from the vine.

Sweetened condensed milk makes a very smooth soup.  
  Seed, peel and cube  
1 large ripe cantaloupe.  
  In a food processor or blender, purée the cantaloupe with  
1/2 cup (of 1 1/2 cups total) orange juice.  
  Add the rest of the orange juice with  
1 5 1/3 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger and
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
  Serve cold.  
Makes 4 to 6 servings.  
Cantaloupe may give the best results; it’s a matter of taste.  
  Seed, peel and puree  
1 cantaloupe (or other melon)  
  To a quart of puree add  
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and
1 tablespoon of honey.
  Pour mixture onto the fruit roll tray of your dehydrator and dry according to the dehydrator instructions (Probably 6 to 8 hours at 100° F)  

  In a large-size bowl, combine  
5 cups watermelon; seeded & cubed
3/4 cup sugar and
1/4 cup lemon juice.
  Whirl in a blender or food processor until smooth then chill for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, sprinkle  
1 envelope unflavored geletin over
1/4 cup hot water
  Let stand 1 minute then stir over medium heat until gelatine dissolves. Remove from heat and add to watermelon mixture along with  
12 ounces evaporated milk  
  Pour into freezer container of a 5 quart freezer. Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.  
Makes 9 servings.  

(Excerpts from "Cucumbers, Melons, and Gourds From Seed To Supper" 2nd Edition)

     A warm weather crop, gourds can be grown on flat land, sloping trellises or fences. The smaller gourds are decorative and sometimes musical. The larger ones have a practical utility in bird houses, water dippers, bowls or musical instruments. They are unpredictable and readily cross breed. Gourds generally are defined as the decorative, hard-shelled or practical forms. Many gourds are edible when young and tender. A few gourds are edible when mature.
Some of the more common varieties are:

Benincasa hispida

Wax gourd, Winter Gourd, Winter Melon - 125 days - Large ovid or globose fruits with a waxy surface - firm white flesh seeds embedded in center. Edible as mature fruit. AKA White gourd, white pumpkin, tallow gourd, ash gourd, gourd melon, Chinese watermelon, and Chinese preserving melon.
Hairy Gourd - cylindrical green fruit covered with short silky white hairs - edible when young.

Cucurbita pepo

(Cucurbita pepo cv. ovifera), Striped Crown of Thorns, Bicolor Pear, Striped pear, Miniature Ball, Cannon Ball, Basket Ball, Crown of Thorns,Flat Striped, White Egg, Orange Warted, Small Spoon - 100 days - yellow flowered - ornamental

Cucurbita foetidissima

Coyote Melon, Buffalo Gourd - grey-green coarse folliage with a fetid “under-arm” odor - well adapted to dry sandy soils - striped green fruit - needs long periods of dry weather.

Lagenaria siceraria

Cucuzzi, Bottle Gourd, Vegetable Gourd  - 125  days - white flowered, night blooming - fruit 2-12 inches in diameter, 4 - 36 inches in length - round, bottle-shaped, dumbbell-shaped, crook-necked, coiled or spoon shaped - AKA Suzza melon, Italian edible gourd, Tasmania bean, Zucca, Yugao, Po Gua, Kwa Kwa, Opo, Upo, Bau, Dudhi, Lauki


Luffa acutangula

Luffa  - 120 days - 1 to 2-foot long cylindrical fruit - fast growing also know as the vegetable sponge, the dishrag gourd, and Chinese okra. Mostly used as in cooking as the mature angled outer skin is not easily separated from the inner flesh.

Luffa aegyptiaca (cylindrica)

Luffa  - 120 days - 1 to 2-foot long cylindrical fruit - fast growing also know as the vegetable sponge, the dishrag gourd, and Chinese okra. Mostly grown for sponge production as the mature skin detaches easily from the inner flesh. The non-bitter genotypes immature fruit are inferior to those of L. acutangula

Momordica balsamina

Balsom-apple - 65 days - When mature orange rind ruptures revealing bright scarlet arils (tissue) surrounding the brown or white seeds.

Momordica charantia

Balsam-pear, Bitter Gourd, Bitter Melon, Bitter Cucumber, La-Kwa - 65 days - Edible when small and immature. Used by the Chinese as a tonic vegetable. It has a taste similar to bland squash but more sour. Young fruit is used as cucumber in tropical countries. The ripe fruit has silvery flesh and pale brown seeds.

Trichosanthes anguina

Serpent,Snake or Club Gourd - 90 days - night blooming white blossoms, fuzzy fruit grows up to 6 feet long - edible when young.

Sechium edule

Chayote - AKA Mirliton, vegetable pear, mango squash - 200 days - fast growing vine, up to 30 feet, needs trellis or fence - very productive, up to 150 4- to 6-inch fruit per vine - edible tubors form in second year.

Selected Gourd Recipes
(Excerpts from "Cucumbers, Melons, and Gourds From Seed To Supper" 2nd Edition)

  Preheat your oven to 350°F.
2 ripe chayotes  
  in half lengthwise, remove the seed and steam for 15 minutes or microwave for 6 minutes on high. Meanwhile, sauté  
1 small onion, diced
2 green onions, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely diced green pepper
  until soft. Add  
1 tablespoon chopped parsley and
1 pinch nutmeg.
  Scoop out each half of chayote, leaving a 1/4-inch shell. In a medium-size bowl, mash the pulp with a fork and add the sautéed onion mixture. Stuff the chayote shells with layers of the mashed pulp and some of  
1 cup total grated sharp cheddar cheese.  
  Sprinkle the tops with  
bread crumbs (4 tablespoons total)
grated Parmesan cheese
a dab of butter.
  Bake until the tops are golden and the cheese melted, about 15 minutes  
Makes 4 servings.  

  In a 3- 4-quart pan over high heat, bring  
1 1/2 quarts water  
  to a boil. Peel  
2 chayotes (1 1/2 pounds total)  
  and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Add to water and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile,  in a saucepan, heat  
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
salt and pepper to taste.
  Pour over hot chayotes and chill.  


  In a food processor or with a knife, mince  
1/3 pound deveined shelled shrimp and
1 green onion.
  Mix in  
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (Nouc mam or nam pla)  
  In a 5- to 6-quart pan, stir over high heat until shrimp mixture is pink and crumbly, about 5 minutes. Add  
1 1/2 quarts water
  and bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, pare  
1 pound upo
  with a vegetable peeler. Cut into matchstick-size sticks. Add to the boiling shrimp broth. Cover and simmer gently until the upo is tender to bite, 5 to 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with  
chopped celantro.
season to taste with more fish sauce
white pepper.


Cucumbers, Melons & Gourds Contents
(from "Cucumbers, Melons, and Gourds From Seed To Supper" 2nd Edition)

Cucurbitaceae - The Gourd Family - Cucumbers
Training And Pruning
Pests And Disease
Nutritional Breakdown
Cooking Methods
Deep Fry
  Cucumber Vinaigrette
Cucumbers In Sour Cream
Japanese Cucumber Salad
Cucumber And Yogurt Salad
Creamy Cucumber Salad Dressing
Cucumber And Dill Sauce
Cucumber Chili Salsa
Cucumber Jicama Salsa
Feta Cheese Stuffed Cucumbers
Cucumber Finger Sandwiches
Cucumber Cream Cheese Canopes
Cucumber Salmon Canopes
Cucumber Cream Soup
Baked Cucumbers
Parsley Cucumbers
Creamed Cucumbers
Creamed Cucumbers And Mushrooms
Cucumbers In Cheese Sauce
Sautéed Cucumber With Dill
Fried Cucumbers
Southern Fried Cucumbers
Cucumber Bread Rolls
  Cucumber Relish
Amber Relish
Unfermented Pickles (Quick Method)  
  Daily Harvest Pickles
Stuffed Cucumber Kimchee
Dill Pickles (Quart Jar Method)
Quick Refrigerator Cucumber Chips
Bread And Butter Pickles
Fermented Pickles (Long Method)  
  Fermented Pickles (Long Method)
High Salt Brining
Sour Pickles
Spiced Sour Pickles
Sweet Gerkins
Icicle Pickles

Pests And Disease
Nutritional Breakdown
  Chilled Melon
Mixed Melon Salad
Curried Melon Salad
Minted Melon Salad
Molded Melon Salad
Creamed Cantaloupe Cooler
Quick Melon Soup
Double Delight Coolers
Melon And Meat Hors D'oeuvres
Banana Cream Cantaloupe
Watermelon Ice
Watermelon Sherbet
Cantaloupe Sorbet
Cantaloupe Relish
Melon Leathers
Watermelon Preserves
Fresh Melon Pickles
Watermelon Rind Pickles
Melon Pickles
Edible Gourds
  Chinese Winter Melon
Chinese Winter Melon Soup
Winter Melon With Shrimp Soup
Winter Melon Leek And Snow Pea Soup
Fresh Winter Melon Pickle
Steamed Stuffed White Gourd
Braised Scallops And Wax Gourd
Microwave Cucuzzi
Upo Shrimp Soup
Snake Gourd
Chayote Vinaigrette
Chayote Salad
Cheese Stuffed Chayote
Chayote Corn Soup
Caribbean Stuffed Chayotes
Fresh Pickled Chayote
Ornamental & Practical Gourds  
  Ornamental & Practical Gourds
Ornamental / Ovifera Gourds
Cayote Melon / Buffalo Gourd
Calabash Gourds
Bottle Gourds - Lagenaria siceraria

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