[Market-farming] West Indian Gherkins

Christine & Marlin glenecofarm at planetcomm.net
Wed Jul 19 22:00:08 EDT 2006

This year I decided to try a new one from Baker Creek called West Indian
Gherkens or Burr cucumbers.  When I originally saw them described in Seed
Savers Exchange catalog I thought they were talking about the Italian
melon-cucumbers which are closely related to Armenian cucumbers or
Muskmelons, but with a little more careful research I decided that they were
something entirely different.  I was still curious though and ordered them
anyway.  Was I ever surprised when I saw the seed, much smaller than melon
or cucumber seed and, contrary to Baker Creek's advertisement that there
would be 25-30 seeds in the packet, there were, would you believe, 347

WI Gherkens are considered rare and generally not available from US seed
companies with the exception of Baker Creek.  The mature fruits are about
the size, shape, and appearance of Jimsonweed seed pods but the spines are
soft and non objectionable.  I like to pick them at about 1"-1 1/2" long and
3/4"-1" in diameter when they still have a shiny light green color.  They
taste much like a good tasting cucumber though they are not a true cucumber
and will not cross with them.  The vines and leaves look exactly like those
of watermelons but make a thicker network of vines, enough to serve as a
pretty good weed suppressing ground cover.  So far I have yet to see
evidence that cucumber beetles have discovered them.  It's a few of these
kinds of qualities that make me think that they may be worth playing with a
little if I can learn how to market them.

They are somewhat of a PITA to pick but not as bad as the baby Zephyr summer
squash I love to grow.  But I'm not getting $3.50/lb for them like I am
getting for the baby squash.  I priced them at 10 cents each and I have lots
of people going on about how interesting and cute they are and buying 3-5 of
them just to try them. So far no one has come back and complained about
them. One Saturday at the market I sold about $15 worth of them at that rate
and was beginning to wonder if they might eventually become worth fooling
with.  Then the next Saturday I sold no more than $5.00 worth.  Nah, I doubt

Well anyway I wonder if anyone else has messed with these things.  Meanwhile
I think I will go out and pick some of my Diva cukes.  They are a lot more
fun to pick and definitely more forgiving than other cukes.  Missed ones
from the previous picking can be quite large, like a foot long and 3 inches
in diameter, and still taste quite good.  You are hearing this from someone
who has never been a big cucumber eating fan.

Marlin Burkholder

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