How To Grow Cucumbers

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Cucumbers love plenty of food, water, sunshine and bees. Given all these ‘ingredients’, cucumbers will thrive and produce copious amounts of fruit.

GROWING

There are many varieties, from round to long (telegraph), to short (Lebanese). An interesting variety is the African horned, with spiked yellow skin and sweet green flesh. Then there is the lemon cucumber, shaped like a lemon with white flesh that is excellent for both salads and pickling. For the best results, add plenty of well-rotted manure to your soil in spring or early summer.

Create a mound and plant 4–5 seeds in a crater-like depression at the top. Water well, and eventually prick out the weakest seedlings, leaving the strongest 2 seedlings to scramble along the ground (or climb up a trellis if assisted with ties). Space each mound 70 cm (2 ft 4 in) apart. Keep the plants well fed and watered and pick the cucumbers regularly – they should begin to appear about 10 weeks after planting.
A handful of plants should be enough for the average family.

HARVESTING

Cucumbers can be picked as gherkins when they are very small, or grown into larger sizes for salads. Search the plants for cucumbers hiding under the foliage, and pick the cucumbers by twisting them from the plant or snipping them off with scissors.

STORING

Cucumbers keep well at room temperature for 3 days or so. They can also be kept in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper for about 1 week.

Making Pickled cucumbers is a great way of dealing with a glut. If you’re looking for something different, try roasting cucumbers. Peel them, cut in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds. Cut into pieces the shape of potato wedges. Lightly salt them and leave for 20 minutes or so to extract the excess water. Pat dry and toss with oil and herbs and bake in a hot oven for about 15 minutes. Serve hot with a knob of butter and some freshly ground pepper.

This is an edited extract from The Produce Companion by Merdith Kirton & Mandy Sincliar published by Hardie Grant Books $49.95
and is available in stores nationally. Available Now!

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