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Greenhouse Growing : Cucumbers

 Cooking cucumbers

Cucumbers are thought to have originated as a food crop in India over three thousand years ago. A related wild species still grows there, it is a subtropical plant. The ancient Greeks grew cucumbers and the vegetable gradually found its way around Europe. It is a short-lived plant, an annual that in natural conditions would produce seeds and die after a few months. It is related to the pumpkin and the melon. It needs considerable warmth to grow well and did not feature much this far north until glasshouses, or at least glass cloches and frames became available.

There are varieties known as ridge cucumbers which can be grown outdoors after the danger of frost is passed. These are harder than the greenhouse kind, the outer skin is tougher and often has rough bumps and prickles. The flesh is crunchy and they often have seeds since they are open to being pollinated. Greenhouse cucumbers are generally not pollinated as it changes both the shape and the flavour of the cucumber. The shape of a pollinated cucumber often ends up bulbous and the flavour is strong, bitter even. Preventing pollination used to involve screening bees out of the greenhouse but the modern varieties have only female flowers. A fresh cucumber from the greenhouse is crisp and has a lovely mild flavour, easy to grow but a fair challenge to grow well.

Cooking cucumber

Although cucumber is generally considered as a salad ingredient, it can be used in a variety of ways. It makes excellent salad material, either finely sliced or cut in chunks and can be used with a range of other salad ingredients. It is very good, greek style, with yogurt. It is a cooling food and appreciated in hot climates. But it can be lightly cooked, sliced in slender batons for falsh stir-frying and used with delicate flavours. It can b eaten with skin intact, except the tough-skinned ridge types. It is a good source of dietary fibre, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, magnesium, potassium and other vitamins and minerals.

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