Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience

Rik’s note

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Cucumbers are now spilling out of polytunnel 2 at the rate of fifty a day. These are about the only vegetable I don’t like to eat; there is something about their flavour, aroma and texture that I’ve always found unappetising. Yet they are beautiful plants and a joy to grow and harvest, so I suppose I should be thankful that somebody likes them.

Cucumbers are plants of the cucurbit family, related to pumpkins, squashes, courgettes, marrows and melons. They originated in India more than 3000 years ago, but nowadays they are among the most widely cultivated vegetable crops on Earth, fourth only behind tomatoes, cabbages and onions. Their habit is one of a creeping vine with grasping tendrils. Provided with vertical strings as they are in our polytunnel, they will happily climb upwards to present their fruits as green cylindrical pendulums, otherwise they would become an unmanageable sprawl where many of the fruits would go unnoticed and become overgrown. We are growing several varieties this year as usual. Some are “mini” types about 15 -20 cm (6 – 8 inches) in length, whereas others are the longer kind familiar to supermarket shoppers, where they often come shrink-wrapped in plastic (ugh!).

We also have some old fashioned types with a prickly skin. This is quite normal, the prickles are easily removed by scrubbing or rubbing, and many connoisseurs insist these types have a superior flavour. Finally we have the most unusual “Crystal Lemon”. With its round shape and deep yellow colour, it’s something a bit different for the salad drawer in your fridge. It’s said to have a sweetish flavour all its own and children love them. Also in polytunnel 2 we are growing the cucumber’s sweet little sister, melon, about which more later…

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