Monday, 18 July 2016
Sumter Pickling Cucumber
Somehow this particular variety did not come to my attention until last winter, when we were perusing the seed catalogues and saw it listed by William Dam. I see The Cottage Garden and Urban Harvest also have it. There's no romantic history, or unique flavour, shape or colour; these are just a pickling cucumber. But I have to say, I'm loving them.
They're extremely productive and apparently very disease resistant. (No problems with cucumber diseases for us so far, luckily.) They are said to take 60 to 65 days to maturity (here; even earlier in the south). We almost missed picking the first few cucumbers from them as they appeared much sooner than I was really expecting. Vines are compact, and in fact if I have any complaint about them it's that I wish they were a little rangier. I'm fairly strange that way though. Their compact size suggests that they would be a good choice for container growing.
These typically shaped pickling cucumbers (shorter, blockier, and spinier than most eating cucumbers) have a nice, dense, crisp flesh and mild flavour. We've eaten a few in salads and enjoyed them. They can get a little large and still be good. I don't think they taste quite as good raw as Early Russian, which so far is my favourite pickling cucumber for flavour, but which we have not grown for several years as they are just not reliable enough for us. Sumter on the other hand is well known for its reliability and the taste is fine. Even though it's pretty early on in the season it looks like they are going to churn them out like crazy. They should probably go for about 6 weeks.
I'll be putting up my first jar of dill pickles with these cukes today, so I can't report first hand on how they will be yet. However they are known for keeping their crisp texture as pickles.
They have been extremely tolerant of the hot, dry summer we've been having this year. (Some of my other cucumbers are having trouble setting.) Not surprising, since they were bred by W.C. Barnes of the Clemson Agricultural Experiment Station, part of Clemson University in South Carolina with some sort of input from the Asgrow Company.
They were released in 1973, which means that while they are not old enough to be considered an heirloom variety, they are certainly tried and true. They are monoecious; meaning that each plant has male and female blossoms. In other words, if you are not growing any other cucumbers you can save seeds from this variety and they will come true - a state of affairs that gets less common with more modern cucumbers. If you are not saving seed (or even if you are) these hold a nice, low-seed interior for quite a while, adding to their overall good texture.
In short, this is a very popular pickling cucumber for good reason. I'm impressed and I suspect that this will become our standard pickling cucumber.