Veg out: Crazy for cucumbers
21 June 2017
"They are so vigorous that an almost bi-weekly hacking is required to remove extra vines that are intent on colonising the greenhouse."
Blogger, private chef and keen kitchen gardener Kathy Slack of Gluts & Gluttony tells you what to grow and how to cook it. This month, she’s crazy for cucumbers… Pl anting six cucumber plants was, it turns out, excessive. No matter how much cucumber soup you intend to make. Indeed, I have been swamped by them for weeks now. Thriving as they do in warm, wet conditions, they’ve taken to this muggy early summer of ours like a duck to water – or should that be a cucurbit to the jungle? (No? Well, you’re probably right.)
Mine are in the greenhouse, and I’ve grown Diva and Iznik varieties this year. There’s some fiddliness about which varieties can be grown indoors versus outdoors and some additional, and related, complexities about which have all-female flowers and which have a mix of male and female. It’s all a step beyond my poor showing in school biology, but I’ve found the all-female varieties work wonderfully in greenhouses (presumably it’s a pollination thing) and require little care.
In fact, the only care I really give them, apart from water and feed, is pretty tough love. They are so vigorous that an almost bi-weekly hacking is required to remove extra vines that are intent on colonising the greenhouse. The cucumber, like most squashes, is a creeper so, left unchecked, it will send out as many runners as it can. The (old fogey) allotment books tell you to pinch out all but two of the vines and train them up a wire, but I’ve found that all the shoots bear fruit, and pruning is a matter of space management rather than crop maximisation. I tether a few to vertical stakes, but many ramble around the greenhouse and seem quite happy.
Oh no, maximisation of harvest is not an issue at all. By my reckoning, last year each plant had produced roughly 20 cucumbers by the end of August, and they showed no sign of slowing down as September set in. But there is only so much Hendricks, cucumber and tonics a girl can drink (yes, even this one), so some have gone in the freezer for smoothies, and many have gone into making this chilled cucumber soup.
Kathy Slack host supper clubs and writes the food blog, Gluts & Gluttony , about the gluts she gets from her veg patch and the ensuing gluttony in the kitchen. Her next is on Saturday, July 8 at The Classic Motor Hub, Bibury where she’ll be celebrating the season’s harvest with a detour into the golden age of motoring. See glutsandgluttony.com/events for more, and follow Gluts & Gluttony on Twitter and Instagram @gluts_gluttony