Armenian Cucumber: What Is This Cucumber Look-alike?

The Armenian cucumber is a frost-sensitive, annual vining plant, grown for its long, exotic fruit. Armenian cucumber (Cucumis melo var. flexuosus) may resemble the regular cucumber in many ways, but it is an entirely different species.

So what is the Armenian cucumber plant, where does it like to grow, and how is it used? Keep reading, and you’ll find out everything about these cucumber look-alikes.

The Armenian cucumber, also called yard-long cucumber and snake cucumber, is botanically classified under melons. It’s a variant of muskmelon.

First bred in Armenia in the 15th century, the Armenian cucumber is popular in Asian countries and exists with different names in different regions. You’ll also find them in the farmer’s markets and grocery stores across the U.S. and Europe.

Thin-skinned and light green, Armenian cucumbers are sweet, crisp, and have no bitterness. They're consumed without peeling, and they are a rich source of Vitamin A, K, and C and potassium. You can add them raw to salads and sandwiches, grill, puree, or pickle them.
Common NameArmenian Cucumber, Snake Cucumber, Yard-Long Melon, Snake Melon
Botanical NameCucumis Melo Var. Flexuosus
Plant TypeAn Annual
Size (Fully Grown)4 To 6 Feet (About 1,22 To 1,83 Meters) Long Vines
Sun ExposureFull Sun
Soil TypeFertile, Loose, And Moist Soil That Drains Well
Soil pHFrom 6.0 To 6.8
Flower ColorGold, Yellow
U.S. Hardiness Zones4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, And 12
Native AreaArmenia

Different Armenian Cucumber Varieties

There are many Armenian cucumber cultivars. The length, shape, skin color, and texture of the Armenian cucumber fruit can vary slightly with the different varieties. The most popular ones you’ll find in the market include:

Armenian Light Green Metki Cucumber – It has a light green to ivory-colored, rough skin. The flesh is crisp, with a milder flavor than regular cucumbers. The plant matures in 50 days, with the fruits best harvested once they’re 12 to 18 inches (about 30 to 46 cm) long.

Armenian Metki Dark Green Cucumbers – It’s an open-pollinated variety that produces long, dark green cucumbers around 18 to 36 inches (about 46 to 91 cm) long. Bitter-free and crisp, they make an excellent slicer and a great addition to salads.

Striped Armenian Cucumber – Also known as “painted serpent,” these unusual varieties have alternating dark green and light green stripes. The open-pollinated variety matures in 63 days, and you can harvest the fruits once they have a length between 8 to 18 inches (about 20 to 46 cm).

What Is The History Of The Armenian Cucumber Plant?

As the name suggests, we believe that the Armenian Cucumber plant was first cultivated in Armenia back in the 15th century. During his travels across Asia, a Swedish traveler and naturalist, Fredric Hasselquist, came across Egyptian cucumbers or hairy cucumbers (C. Melo Chate). This was a different subspecies under the same variety. He called them the “queen of cucumbers” for their sweet and fulfilling flavor.

Though these yard-long cucumbers have been growing across Asia’s temperate regions, from Turkey to Japan for centuries, it’s also popular in the United States, Europe, Sudan, and North Africa, and it’s quite popular in Arab countries as well.

What Does The Armenian Cucumber Plant Look Like?

The Armenian cucumber is an indeterminate vine grown annually for it’s long, curved cucumber-like fruits. This fast-growing vine can reach a height of up to 6 to 9 feet (about 1,82 to 2,74 meters), with several branches and side shoots, and takes very little maintenance to thrive.

It takes about 70 days for the plant to mature and produce those sweet, succulent fruits that we can enjoy all summer long. Armenian cucumber vine has a robust root system that spreads horizontally as the plant develops.

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Stems And Branches

The plant spreads quickly and, as a result, produces many stems and branches. The main stem can meet a length anywhere between 6 – 9 feet (about 1,82 – 2,74 meters), and even 12 feet (about 3,66 meters) in some cases.

The branches have a round crosssection and a hairy exterior, which is very like the one cucumber has. The trailing stems are soft and include tendrils that hook to the trellis or wall as the plant grows.

Leaves

The branches are covered with thick, dark green foliage. Its oblong, hairy leaves have a lobed margin with shallow and irregular lobes. Mature leaves are usually 3 to 6 inches (about 7,5 to 15 cm) long and 3 to 6 inches (approximately 7,5 to 15 cm) wide.

Flowers

Though the plant is self-fertile, it’s also useful to use insects as this can help with pollination, which improves the yield and quality of the fruits.

Armenian cucumber blooms in late spring to summer. Small, pale yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers produced on the vines can either be male or female. Each flower comprises 4 to 5 petals and is 1 to 3 inches (about 2,5 to 7,5 cm) when the plant is fully mature.

They won’t just add a summer appeal to the garden but also bring color to the dinner table. Yes, besides the fruits, the flowers of this plant are also edible. After the pollination, once tiny fruits appear on the female flowers, the male flowers have no use on the vine. That’s why you can harvest and make them a colorful addition to salads.

Fruit

The heart and soul of the Armenian cucumber are the long, slender fruits. The cucumbers can grow up to 3 feet long (about 91 cm) and 3 inches (about 7,5 cm) wide if you leave them to grow on the vine.

But, if you don’t harvest the fruits, they will lose their great flavor. So, remember that they’re sweetest when you gather them once they reach a length of about 12 inches (about 30 cm).

A single vine usually holds up to ten fruits, and depending on the variety, the skin color can range from dark green to light green. Unlike regular cucumbers, which some people use by removing the skin first, snake cucumbers (Armenian cucumber) are thin-skinned and almost always eaten with the skin.

In What Growth Conditions Armenian Cucumbers Grow Best?

Armenian cucumbers are low-maintenance vegetables. They don’t ask for much to thrive, as long as you grow them in a hot, summer climate.

Also, don’t forget to give them plenty of space to grow since the vines spread fast and reach maturity in just about a month. Here are a few things you should know before growing them in your garden.

Where To Plant?

Plant them in a sunny spot that has loose, well-draining soil rich in organic matter. Though you can let them spread horizontally, installing some trellis or stake is the better option. It will keep the vine off the ground, preventing many soil-borne diseases.

Plant the seedlings when they are 3 to 4 inches (about 7,5 to 10 cm) tall and space them 1-foot (about 30 cm) away from each other. If you’re trying to save space, corn is an excellent companion to grow with the Armenian cucumber plant since the corn stalks serve as a living trellis for the vine to grow on.

Temperature

Armenian cucumbers are heat-loving plants that thrive in the summer months. Unfortunately, they’re very frost-sensitive, so you’ll need to wait until the soil temperatures rise above 60°F (about 15,5°C) to plant the seeds outdoors. The ideal growing temperature still ranges from 60°F to 90°F (about 15,5 to 32°C).

Watering

Though they’re very heat-tolerant, you’ll need to maintain consistent soil moisture to get bigger, sweeter fruits. Slow, deep, regular watering throughout the growing season, especially during hot, dry spells, will keep the vine healthy.

The Benefits Of Eating / Consuming Armenian Cucumbers

Like its close relative cucumber, Armenian cucumber has many health benefits and is a good source of vitamins and potassium. It’s also rich in antioxidants, including B-carotene and A-carotene.

That’s not all. This fiber-rich vegetable keeps your digestive system in good shape, preventing constipation and more severe problems such as colon cancer. The plant is also useful in treating Alzheimer’s disease since it contains some vital fatty acids that can reduce brain inflammation.

Additionally, with its diuretic properties, Armenian cucumber helps you control your weight and blood pressure. Speaking of weight control, snake cucumber especially makes an excellent addition to low-calorie diets since it does not contain saturated fats or cholesterol.

Regular consumption removes the body’s toxins, including uric acid, making it especially beneficial in treating arthritis. Since most of the nutrients are present in the outer skin, Armenian cucumber is best consumed without peeling.

The vegetable may interest those allergic to cucumbers since most of them can safely consume Armenian cucumbers. Because Armenian cucumbers are a variety of melons, not cucumbers, you can enjoy these vegetables just like you would regular cucumbers, but without the fearful allergic symptoms.

Featured image credit – © Funtay – stock.adobe.com

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