Thursday, July 16, 2009

Armenian Cucumbers: a 3,000 year-old favorite and a recipe for Chilled Yogurt-Cucumber Soup (Jajik)

Armenian cucumber
Now that summer is here, it’s time to turn off the oven and think about cool, refreshing foods.

When I think of summer, cucumbers come to mind - as in “cool as a cucumber.” The high water content of the cucumber provides a moist, cooling effect to the palate.

My grandmother called cucumbers “varoonk." My father sprinkled salt on their thin, moist slices to bring out their goodness. My niece and nephew would fight over cucumbers when they were little. I just like them for their cool, crisp snap when biting into one.

As mentioned in an earlier post, our friend Taniel Koushakjian is growing Armenian cucumbers in his D.C. garden. But, did you know that the Armenian cucumber is actually a variety of melon?

It’s related to the muskmelon and is known by several names: yard-long cucumbers, snake cucumbers, and snake melons. The Armenian cucumber is long, slender, not bitter, is burpless, easy to digest, can be eaten with the skin still on, and - tastes like a cucumber.

Here’s a favorite hot-weather recipe:

Chilled Yogurt-Cucumber Soup (Jajik)
Yield: about 4 servings

1 long, seedless cucumber, washed & peeled
2 cups plain yogurt
½ cup cold water
1 clove garlic, squeezed through a garlic press, or hand-mashed (optional)
Dash salt
2 tsp. crushed dried mint

1. Cut the cucumber in quarters, lengthwise. Slice each section into thin pieces.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt with the water.
3. To the yogurt, stir in cucumbers, garlic, if using, salt, and mint. To keep this very cold, add a few ice cubes. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
4. To serve, stir, ladle into bowls, and add an ice cube in each bowl. Garnish with fresh sprigs of mint.


  1. I adore this soup and had it at home growing up. Your recipe looks exactly like what my mom made. Thanks for posting it.

  2. My grandfather used to make us eat this when we were little kids. I haven't eaten it since then but this sounds good, so as soon as it's warm again....

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  4. Heidi, Thanks for featuring our recipe and mentioning our blog on your site!
    With appreciation, Robyn and Doug

  5. I would like to suggest also another version of jajik, it's from Van.

    1 cup of matsuni
    1 cup of sour cream
    1 hardly boiled egg
    1 boiled red beet
    1 cucumber
    1 onion
    1 garlic clove
    small bunch of greens
    lavash or bread
    In a food processor mashed the vegetables with the egg, then add the matsuni, sour cream & the salt. Serve with dried or fried lavash or bread.

    1. Thank you for your recipe, Sonia. I have one question: do you mean one HARD boiled egg? 'HARDLY' suggests the egg isn't fully cooked. I just want to be sure of your meaning.

    2. yes, Robyn, I would like to say Hard boiled egg. I'm mistaken.

    3. Thanks Sonia, I am Vanetsi too!

  6. Parev tsez! I love jajik in the summer...a great side with any dish! --- and super fast and easy to make!

    I just started growing my own Armenian Cucumber plant... check it out!

  7. HELP! my soup is thick, I used greek yogurt, should I just add more water? It appears more like a sauce.

    1. Hi Debbi,
      Greek yogurt needs to be diluted if using it for a soup recipe - so, yes, add water and enjoy!

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  9. I grew Armenian cukes in my garden this year & everyone loves them! Just found one the other day that is huge! 17" long & 12" around - Im going to make some soup.