This season I grew several heirloom cucumbers. All of them are open pollinated so seed can be saved and planted next year. The first of my cucumbers to ripen was ‘Boothby’s Blond’ (top photo) a variety handed down over generations by the Boothby family in Maine. The date is unknown, but I would guess nineteenth century. It is a lemon-type, rather small, but quite mild and delicious. The plants produced well and began early. One failing is that the plants developed powdery mildew earlier than other varieties, and this eventually weakened the plants causing them to slow production. My garden is in shade for the first half of the day and that is part of the problem. I garden organically and use a soap spray to control mildew. It slows down the spread of mildew, but does not kill it. Anyway, I would recommend growing ‘Boothby’s Blond’ cucumber. It is great tasting, early (50-60 days) and productive. Just try to give it as much sun and air as possible to prevent disease.
Another good heirloom cucumber I grew this year is ‘Parisian Pickle’ from 1880 (middle photo). This variety is listed to mature in 50 days. Now that is true if you pick the cucumbers small, which you might want to do because the fruits grow large quickly. We used this variety for slicing and were about to make pickles when rats appeared and ate all the cucumbers in the garden. I suppose they are traveling all over town trying everyone’s cucumbers. ‘Parisian Pickle’ is very productive and fast-growing, but the leaves also developed powdery mildew a couple weeks after ‘Boothby’s Blond’.
In the bottom photo is a cucumber grown since the era of the Oregon Trail, 1830-1869. It is ‘Long Green Improved’ from 1842. It is listed as maturing in 70 days, but I found it to be ten days earlier. (This could be due to weather; we had the hottest summer on record here in Oregon). The skin of the fruit of ‘Long Green Improved’ cucumber has few spines so is smoother-skinned than the previously mentioned varieties. It is an excellent slicer with mild flavor that can be used for pickling when picked small. Best of all, my six plants of this variety still show absolutely no mildew on October 5. That means this variety will tolerate slightly shadier or more close conditions than the other two. The fruits will grow to 12 inches or more if allowed. This is a great variety that should be saved from extinction. Why not try it next season?