Leslie Cox’s cucurbit harvest: the round object is a ‘Ronde de Nice’ zucchini, darker fruits are the ‘Mercury’ cucumbers with one odd-ball shaped one. The lighter green ones in the top right of the basket are the ‘Early Russian’ cucumbers. Photo by Leslie Cox

Leslie Cox’s cucurbit harvest: the round object is a ‘Ronde de Nice’ zucchini, darker fruits are the ‘Mercury’ cucumbers with one odd-ball shaped one. The lighter green ones in the top right of the basket are the ‘Early Russian’ cucumbers. Photo by Leslie Cox

DUCHESS OF DIRT: Everything is coming up cucurbits in the Cox garden

LESLIE COX

Special to The Record

Everything is coming up cucurbits, especially zucchini! Started picking them on July 4 and pretty much every day since.

We are growing three varieties this year: ‘Gold Rush,’ ‘Black Beauty’ and a French heirloom called ‘Ronde de Nice.’ Unfortunately, I lost the battle of cutting John back on the number of zucchini plants to be planted this year. Thankfully, I have lots of zucchini recipes!

I started the ‘Gold Rush’ and ‘Black Beauty’ seeds indoors and transplanted them out on May 22. The ‘Ronde de Nice’ seeds were a later acquisition and were direct seeded on the same date as the seedlings went into the ground.

It does pay to start your seeds indoors, if you have the room, because I just harvested the first ‘Ronde de Nice’ zucchini on July 16…a full 12 days after harvesting the first ones of the other two varieties. But that is okay because if I thought I was being overwhelmed by zucchinis earlier this week, it will be nothing like the numbers will be now the ‘Ronde de Nice’ plants are producing.

We really do like this third variety of zucchini we are growing. The flesh is tender and flavour is delicious, especially if picked when the delightfully round fruits are about three inches in diameter. But even if they have escaped notice and grown larger in size, they are still good for grating and turning into muffins, breads, quiche and marmalades. Or dice the big ones for soup to be served cold on these record hot summer days.

Of course, the other two zucchini varieties in our vegetable garden are used in the same recipes…both small- and large-sized specimens. One can never have too many zucchinis, according to John, although he is not always available to help deal with the harvest in the kitchen. He quite often finds a chore that must be immediately tended to in the garden. Hmmm, very convenient. But when it comes to making our zucchini relish, he does the dicing job… or no relish.

Keeping on the cucurbits theme, we are growing cucumbers again after a few years’ span. This time we are growing them in the garden and in pots instead of in the greenhouse.

I gave up on them in the greenhouse a few years back due to plants shriveling from poor root development… likely from sowbugs, or possibly other problems. Was also under pressure from John because he hated giving space away from putting in more tomato plants. (Twenty-nine tomato plants in the greenhouse this year!)

But I love cucumbers and decided it was time to give them another try. So, I started some ‘Mercury’ and ‘Patio Snacker’ seeds indoors, as well as an heirloom variety called ‘Early Russian.’ But after transplanting two ‘Mercury’ and three ‘Early Russian’ in the garden I ran out of room. The remainder are in five-gallon pots and growing up twine supports on the woodshed. The ‘Patio Snacker’ cucumber is a shorter vining variety so those are in pots too and trellised.

As yet, none of the potted cukes are ready to harvest but have picked the first fruits from ‘Mercury’ and ‘Early Russian’ plants in the garden.

As I mentioned, ‘Early Russian’ is an heirloom variety that was introduced to North America in the mid-1850s. It is classified as an early pickling variety, ready to be harvested in 50 days but can be left until the fruits reach five to six inches…an ideal size for slicing. A dual-purpose cucumber or so claims Dan Jason of Salt Spring Seeds. If he says the fruits are sweet and delicious at six inches, I trust him. Can’t wait to bite into that cucumber sandwich.

ALSO: Summer chores can seem endless in the garden

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at www.duchessofdirt.ca

Comox Valleygardening