The Q&A Archives: Crystalline formation on cucumber skin

Question: The past few years I have had problems with a crystalline, scaley deposit forming on the skin of my Burpee Burpless and on Sweet Slice cucumbers. Generally the deposit develops late in the summer and is near the blossom end (not always) causing some fruit deformation. Is this some type of mineral imbalance or what?

Answer: There are many conditions that produce misshapen cukes, but I've never heard of nor seen a "scaley deposit". If it's dry and flakes off, perhaps it's salts precipitating from irrigaition water, though you'd see that on the ground and other surfaces, too. Uneven watering or pollination, excessive heat and/or mineral imbalance all can affect fruit shape and flavor. If the moisture supply has been uneven, calcium uptake is affected, and blossom end rot results from a lack of calcium in the rapidly growing fruit cells. If flowers aren't completely pollinated, or if pollen dies in excessive heat, the fruit won't ripen evenly. Sometimes I've seen a clear ooze issuing from cukes where the skin has been damaged by insects or scrapes, and spines concentrated on contracted fruit skin may appear as a crystaline formation. If none of these seem to fit your situation, please submit another question with more details, or contact your county agricultural extension service (ph# 970/356-4000) and see if you can submit a sample for examination.

In general, soil pH for cukes is best around 6.5-7.0, is rich, humusy and well-drained. Organic mulch (straw, grass clippings, leaves, etc.) helps soil retain moisture and ensure even plant growth and yields. For good pollination, train the vines to a trellis where bees and other pollinators can readily reach them. Hope this helps!

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