Beit Alpha kibbutz cucumber is early, sweet, smooth-skinned
The beauty of a mixed garden is similar to the beauty of a mixed population of humans. As humans, we quickly take what is foreign and incorporate it into our lives. Take Yiddish, which most Americans speak without knowing it. So, an undesirable or foolish person is a “schmuck.” And we have all heard a salesman's “spiel” or talk. But when a man accused of murdering his parents asks the court to be lenient because the defendant is now an orphan, this is the epitome of “chutzpah,” one with no shame.
In the garden is a bit of Yiddish, a cucumber from an Israeli research farm or kibbutz, called Beit Alpha.
The Beit Alpha kibbutz cucumber (Cucumis sativus) is an early, sweet, smooth-skinned cucumber that is “burp-less.” These are sometimes called Middle Eastern cucumber, Persian cucumber or Lebanese cucumber. They are so tender you never need to peel them.
A big plus is that Beit Alpha cucumber is one of the most disease-resistant varieties known, even resistant to powdery mildew. Because they are very productive and sweet, Beit Alpha cucumbers are ideal for CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where consumers buy directly from a nearby farm.
Seeds are available from many sources, including Sustainable Seed Company (www.sustainableseedco.com), True Leaf Market (www.trueleafmarket.com) and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds.com or by mail at 2278 Baker Creek Road Mansfield, MO 65704).
Plant cucumbers after the soil has warmed up and all danger of frost has passed. Choose a spot with full sun in rich soil that drains well. Space the plants 18-24 inches apart in rows three feet apart.
If you want perfectly straight cucumbers, grow them on a trellis or fence. This saves garden space, and can even be used to shade heat-sensitive plants such as lettuce.
Even though they were bred in a desert, these cucumbers grow very well, even during cool temperatures.
Plant cucumbers when average daily temperatures reach the mid-70s. Ideally your soil should be neutral, with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8.
Pick your Beit Alpha cucumbers a bit smaller than other varieties. They are delicious even as tiny as three inches for baby pickles, or five to six inches for dill spears, or to slice fresh for salads, snacks or sandwiches.
Always cut any fruit from the plant rather than trying to rip it off, which could accidentally tear the vine or even pull it out of the earth.
As with all cucumbers, keep them picked to encourage more production. You can, of course, save overripe fruit for saving seeds. Because this is a non-hybrid heirloom, you can save seeds knowing they will grow true next year.
For sweet, smooth-skinned cucumbers all summer long, plant Beit Alpha cucumbers. Perfect for “schmoozing” with friends, or served on a bagel (another Yiddish word). Perhaps in the company of a “zaftig” (a voluptuous, curvy, full-figured woman). And as they say in Yiddish and now in America, it will go off without a “glitch.”