Cucumbers are members of the gourd family. The plant has tendrils and is a climbing vine. The leaves are palmate and up to 40 cm wide. The stems of the plant are hollow and ridged and fruit show a prickly surface. The flowers are yellow and up to 15 cm in diameter. They show 5 petals. Cucumbers are fertilised by insects.
There are plenty of cucumber varieties, from small gherkins for pickling to long telegraph cucumbers. We grow a variety of Lebanese cucumber that offers a fruit up to 30 cm long and 6 cm in diameter with a dark green skin.
Cucumbers are reported to have anti-inflammatory properties. They have a high water content and are help to re-hydrate the body.
How to grow:
Cucumbers benefit from a trellis to climb, that is about 1.5 high and offers some mesh for the tendrils to attach to.
Cucumbers like plenty of sun. The soil temperature needs to be higher than 16 C. Sow in well drained soil, enriched with compost. Sow seeds 4 cm deep. Space seeds 40 – 60 cm apart.
Fertilise with liquid fertiliser every fortnight.
Cucumbers like consistent watering. Make sure you keep the leaves dry when watering to avoid mildew.
8 to 10 weeks to harvest.
Cucumbers need to be harvested frequently to encourage more flowers and fruit.
Growing in the neighbourhood:
Companions are beans, lettuce, radish, nasturtiums, cabbages, coriander, fennel and dill. Doesn’t like to have tomatoes and potatoes in the same bed.
Pests and other problems and how we deal with them:
Weak cucumber plants are prone to get powdery mildew. Make sure that air can dry the leaves by cutting out surplus growth. Remove all leaves that don’t look healthy. Early onset of mildew can be easily contained with a milk spray.
Spring to end of Summer
Cucumbers cross pollinate with other plants of the gourd family. In order to collect useful seeds the mother-plant would need to be kept isolated.
How to harvest and use:
Very occasionally cucumbers can be very bitter, an ancestral trait that most modern cultivars don’t show anymore. So always test a bit before serving cucumbers to others!
Harvest cucumbers when they are quite young, so the skin is still tender and doesn’t need peeling.
Cucumbers are most often eaten raw and in salads. If the skin is thick, they need peeling. They go very well with mint and dill. Tzaziki dip is shredded and squeezed out cucumber mixed with grated garlic and yogurt.