Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Does Size Matter?

In The Greenhouse with Lila Das Gupta

I only ask because I am growing cucumbers in the greenhouse and am suffering from performance anxiety. Last month I acquired a cucumber straightener. I’ve been hankering after one since the RHS show at Inner Temple last year when Pennard Plants put on a marvelous display of Victorian gardening implements. Theirs was a more modest size than mine, but I suppose that was in the days before little blue powder (AKA Miracle-Gro) was invented . This one came from Heritage Traders, and I’m assured it’s also a genuine Victorian replica, but when I first put it up to my growing cukes, I took fright and put the thing back in its cardboard box. Perhaps I’ll build up to it next year!

This is my first year growing cucumbers in the greenhouse and it’s been to mixed results.

Cucumbers in the Greenhouse

Cucumbers in the Greenhouse
I tried to choose varieties which had good mildew resistance and were recommended for greenhouse use: Swing, Carmen, Femspot, Longo Da China. I also didn’t want to have to bother about removing male fruit, (mother nature determined that male flowers produce bitter fruit) so I veered towards cultivars with female fruit.

The short variety ‘Swing’ has performed well — I even managed to show off last week when I had some neighbours for lunch and served them my own home made tsatsiki (see recipe below). Very satisfying, very domestic goddess.

Longo Da China, as the name suggests, is the size of shop bought cucumber and fairly hardy. It has performed well inside and outside the greenhouse.

What I hadn’t anticipated was the attack of the dreaded cucumber beetle which produces cucumber wilt: one day your plant is healthy and vigorous and you are feeling on top of the world. The next day the leaves begin to wilt and you are left scratching your head: have I watered too much/ too little?

A few days later the leaves look like green handkerchiefs draped on the plant. Now you feel like a helpless failure. I’m not accustomed to such moodiness in my plants or myself.

Growing cucumbers properly requires a fair bit of space and time, with careful attention to watering and ventilation. I’ve enjoyed growing them under glass as a novelty item, though frankly we eat so many of them at home, when I paid 50p for my organic cucumber in the supermarket I did wonder if it was worth taking up so much space in a small (6X10) greenhouse. Perhaps this is one fruit that is best left outside — my nerves can’t take the disappointments.

Lila’s Tsatsiki Recipe
4 short cucumbers or two long ones
1 Pot of Greek yoghurt (about 1lb)
Half clove garlic
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Half cup dill, chopped

You can play around with the proportions of tsatsiki, depending on your taste. I prefer less garlic than is usually recommended and like to use dill. Peel the cucumbers first then either chop them finely or coarsely grate them(I include seeds). Add a little salt and put to one side for an hour or so. When some of the juice has run out, discard the liquid and put the cucumber on a tea towel to take off remaining water. Next add the finely chopped, fresh dill — an easy way is to put the herb in a glass then use a pair of sharp scissors to chop. Add grated garlic and mix, then add olive oil and white wine vinegar to taste. Leave for a few hours or overnight in a cool place to allow flavours to blend. This is delicious served with smoked salmon and brown bread.