Two cucumbers on a vine
(Image credit: yogesh_more / Getty Images)

I love pickles, sweet or sour, and make no distinction between the two. They are equally welcome in my gaping jaw. Although pickling may sound intimidating, it is really quite easy, especially making simple refrigerator sweet pickles. The only hard part is waiting for 24 hours before eating them! While you can use many different varieties of cucumber to make these sweet treats, Boothby's Blonde cucumbers are especially suited for sweet pickling.

Cucumber Plant Info

Cucumber cultivation has a rich history of over 3,000 years. They are believed to be native to India, and cultivation spread from there into Greece and Italy, then later into China. The ancient Romans introduced cukes to the rest of Europe, with the fruit eventually making its way via the Spaniards into Haiti in 1494 before filtering into the Americas through the travels of traders and explorers. On a side note, since we were talking about my love for pickles, the Romans were apparently slightly besotted with cucumbers. In fact, it is said that Emperor Tiberius had them grown in greenhouses so he could indulge in his love of them year round. Wouldn't that be nice? Julius Caesar was apparently a big pickle fan, too, and the legendary Cleopatra is said to credit pickles for some of her infamous beauty! Ok, yet another reason to love these tasty morsels. More of my people, the pickle lovers, include George Washington, Napoleon, Queen Elizabeth I, and Amerigo Vespucci. I am in good company indeed. Cucumbers come in three basic varieties: slicing, pickling and burpless (and no, this has nothing to do with burping). All are members of the Cucurbitaceae or gourd family. Most of us are familiar with the long slicing cucumbers found in the grocers, but not every cucumber is long and green. No, my friends. In fact, the fruit from Boothby's Blonde cucumber plants are unique in that they are white to light yellow, oval in shape, and warty with small black spines. Ok, so they don't sound very appetizing yet, but bear with me. These interesting cucumbers do not need to be peeled and are an excellent choice for the aforementioned sweet pickles. This open-pollinated heirloom was grown for five generations by the Boothby family of Livermore, Maine and appears to be a strain of a white cuke called Salad. Intrigued now?

Growing Boothby's Blonde Heirloom

So how do we go about growing Boothby's Blonde heirloom cucumber? Like all cucumber varieties, Boothby's Blonde enjoys full sun. Seeds can be directly sown in the garden once soil temps warm in hills about a foot across, with 6-8 seeds per hill, and 6 feet apart. Or start seeds indoors 2-4 weeks before the last frost. Provide the plants with a trellis or fence so the fruit doesn't get damaged. Once you set about growing your Boothby's Blonde heirlooms (Cucumis sativus), expect your reward in about 55-60 days. Keep a close eye out for powdery mildew though. All cucurbits are highly susceptible to this disease which can bring an end to a much anticipated harvest. These guys are great harvested when small, about 3 inches long, or can be harvested when even smaller for delicious white cornichons. Hmm, yummy. Ok, so now that we have our sweet, crisp Boothby's Blondes, you can eat them sliced fresh, or"¦you guessed it. Make pickles! Here is a recipe for refrigerator sweet pickles that make 4 cups of the best, easy-to-make pickles - at least I think so. Ingredients:

  • 5 ½ cups sliced Boothby's Blondes
  • 1.5 T Kosher salt
  • 1 cup thin sliced onion, your choice
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. celery seed or 1/8 tsp celery salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground turmeric

Combine the cukes and salt, chill and let sit for 1 ½ hours. Rinse the cukes in a colander and drain well. Return the cukes to the bowl and add the sliced onion. Combine the sugars, vinegars, seeds and turmeric in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring, until the sugars dissolve. Pour over the cuke and onion mix. Let sit for one hour at room temp. Then cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours (this is the tough part - patience is a virtue"¦) or up to 2 weeks. Devour and enjoy!

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.