Do you ever get a bit fed up of buying massive supermarket cucumbers, wrapped in layers of plastic to make them grow straight and prevent them going floppy in a few days which inevitably you can’t eat all of it and find it mouldering a few days later in your salad draw? If so why not give growing some of the new baby cucumbers a go? Each one is perfect for a snack or in your lunchbox.
Cucino is one of these new snack sized varieties. I don’t usually grow F1’s as you can’t save the seed but I thought it was worthwhile giving it a go as cucumbers can be monstrously prolific and there are only so many cucumbers you can eat! It has the RHS Award of Garden Merit at the time of writing too so is good for reliability and disease resistance.
Taste wise it has the usual pleasant cucumber taste. I’ve been a bit lax on ensuring that my plant has not been pollinated so some seeds have started to form but they are still not bitter at all. There is a nice ratio of seeds to flesh. The plants are extremely prolific, producing upwards of two a day when hot. I’ve got so many from my one plant that I’ve been giving them away at work, they are going down so well there that one colleague who took some to take home ate both his and his wife’s before he’d got out of the building.
There are a couple of different types of cucumbers. The first distinction is outdoor or greenhouse cucumbers. Greenhouse cucumbers need warm humid conditionswith a minimum of about 15C (60f) to be truly happy. These tend to be the smooth, glossy cucumbers you are used to buying in shops. Outdoor (or ridge cucumbers) can be grown outside once risk of frost has passed, they tend to be a bit more nobbly and occasionally slightly spiny but many of the heritage and better tasting varieties will be ridge cucumbers.
The second type of cucumber you get are all female or male/female plants. All female plants will fruit without fertilisation, infant they need to be protected from it by growing inside away from other types cucumber plants or they can be bitter. You will sometimes see male flowers on all female plants, especially if they are a little stressed but these need to be removed. Plants which are both male and female actually do need pollination to fruit but this will normally be done by insects for you.
Sow cucumber seeds about 1cm deep in root trainers or a 9 cm pot. For indoor cucumbers you can do this from April, for outdoors, late May. Place in a propagator or cover with a plastic bag and keep at 20C (68F) until germination. This should take 7-10 days.
Grow Cucumber plants at at least 15C, keeping the soils moist but not soggy on until they are large enough to be transplanted. If growing in high light levels they may benefit from a little shading to stop leaves scorching.
When cucumber plants are 6 to 8 inches high, transplant them at a spacing of 2 plants per 50cm in a warm, humid greenhouse. Outdoor varieties should be hardened off over 7-10 days before transplanting into well drained soil in full sun, preferably shelter from strong winds. They will benefit from the addition or plentiful compost or manure. You will have better quality fruit if trained up trellis, netting or strings and tied in often. They can get up to 3 meters in height. Water in well and regularly through the growing season.
Cucumber plants when grown well are extremely productive. You will not need more than 2 plants for a family.
In the kitchen
Each cucumber is about 3 to 4 inches long. Perfect for your lunch box. They can be used anywhere that you would use cucumbers. Why not try Cucumber Granita or Nộm Bò Khô – Dried Beef Salad. They won’t last as long as wrapped supermarket varieties, maybe a couple of days in the fridge before they go a bit floppy. If you submerge them in water though, they will perk up.
Yield and plant health
The plant I’ve grown has been extremely productive and healthy. It is currently producing around 7 cucumbers a week. It started producing fruit around mid June and will probably carry on until at least October.