The Cucumber King

Published 10:03 am Tuesday, July 20, 2010

MURFREESBORO — It’s not everyday that you discover a two foot long cucumber in your garden.

However, for Robert “Dusty” Rhoades the discovery of the monstrous cucumber on Monday was not a big deal.

In fact, the cuke was more like a fine ingredient for a salad in Rhoades’ mind.

That was until his neighbor, Joan Wright, spied him heading into his backdoor with the vegetable.

“She asked, ‘What are you going to do with that cucumber?’ and I said, ‘I’m going to eat this thing’,” he recalled.

“She said, ‘No, you ain’t. I’m going to call the newspaper.

That’s the biggest cucumber I’ve seen!’” Rhoades said the vegetable is a “burpless” cucumber and comes in right at 24-inches.

“I put 10 10 fertilizer down when I plowed the ground up in the spring,” he said.

While is not unusual for “burpless” cucumbers (also known as an English cucumbers) to reach the two foot length, what makes Rhoades’ story unique is that he grew the cuke with four year old seeds.

Rhoades recently found the cucumber seeds he bought from Southern States four years ago while he was preparing for a garage sale.

“I thought they were probably so old they wouldn’t grow, but they did,” he said.

Rhoades said he planted the seeds in the latter part of March and 10 days later the cucumber vines began to germinate.

He added this isn’t the first large cucumber he has grown. “Two years ago I grew a 28-inch cucumber…of course, I can’t prove that because I ate it,” he laughed.

Rhoades is somewhat of a novice when it comes to gardening. The retired Navy veteran took up gardening four years ago after he moved from Chesapeake, Va., where he lived for 40 years.

He along with his wife, Donna, settled in a home on a one and a quarter acre parcel of land just outside of the town limits. Rhoades said it’s the most land he had ever owned.

“I was up there in the city and I couldn’t have a garden,” he said.

“The land we had was (the typical) contractor lot.” Rhoades said he always wanted to have a garden. While growing up in Pennsylvania during World War II, everyone had victory gardens.

“When I was a kid we didn’t have anything and I made up my mind I wasn’t going to go hungry again,” he said.

“Now (Donna and I) can and we put up vegetables in the freezer.” Rhoades’ neighbors are often recipients of the produce from his garden as well.

Rhoades said he loves the Murfreesboro area and has made a many friends. He is also part of the Potecasi Creek String Band in which he plays the harmonica.

Like his social life, his garden has also grown over the years. His current three gardens boast not only cukes, but tomatoes, squash and eggplants, both Japanese and the regular type. Rhoades said he has plans to expand one of the gardens next year.

“I talked (my wife) into buying a bigger tiller,” he smiled. As for the fate of the 24-inch cucumber, Rhoades is intent on making it a part of a meal—exactly what it was grown for.