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10 Neat Things About Cucumbers
by Dorothy Dobbie
by Dorothy Dobbie

The Local Gardener magazines, Ontario Gardener, Manitoba Gardener and Alberta Gardener, are published by Pegasus Publications Inc.

Drawing on her 30 years' experience as a senior executive in the magazine publishing industry, Dorothy launched Manitoba Gardener in 1998, initially running the business out of her home. Two years later, Dorothy's daughter Shauna, living in Ontario, jumped into the fray with Ontario Gardener. And two years after that, they started Alberta Gardener. Visit us at and register for our "Ten Neat things" newsletter. Watch Shaw TV for garden tips and Listen to CJOB for the Gardener Sundays at 9:08

August 12, 2012

1. Favourite fruit.

Eaten with salt, cucumber is called a vegetable but it is really a fruit, like tomatoes. It is the world's fourth most cultivated plant after tomatoes, cabbage and onions and T&T Seeds say that it is their number one seller! China produces 60 per cent of the world's cucumber crop, but the plant is said to have originated in India.

2. Slug and grubs away!

Slice some cucumber into an aluminum pie pan and place it in the garden. Apparently the cuke reacts with the aluminum, sending deterrent chemical messages to the gardener's worst enemies, slugs - and grubs, too.

3. Sun and water.

Cucumber is 90 per cent water; plant it in a sunny location and give it a gallon of water a week once the fruit forms. Inconsistent watering can result in bitter fruit. Cukes are heavy feeders, so fertilize once every two weeks or provide a good compost-based soil.

4. The more you pick the more you get.

Like beans, cucumbers will continue to produce as the fruit is harvested. Cucumbers are best eaten green, before they ripen. If they do ripen too much, they become bitter. If your cuke is bitter, you can cut the end, sprinkle it with salt and rub the cut end against the cut surface of the fruit until it froths. I'm assured the bitterness will disappear.

5. Pollination.

Male flowers are produced first, followed by the females. They are open to pollination by all bees, both honey bees and bumble bees, as well as to others - and no wonder. Partially pollinated cucumbers will be yellow, wrinkled or misshapen at the blossom end although fine at the stem end. However, there are varieties that should not be pollinated at all. These include Persian cucumbers and mini seedless Beit Alpha cucumber. Pollination of these types will actually reduce the quality of the fruit.

6. Aboriginal fruit.

Thanks (we think) to the Spaniards, cucumbers had reached North America long before the European settlers arrived. Iroquois and Mandans (from North and south Dakota) were cultivating cucumbers when the first ships pulled up to shore.

7. Cucumber companions.

Cukes are friendly to many vegetables and flowers including nasturtiums, radishes, marigolds, sunflowers, peas, beets, carrots, and dill. Don't grow them with tomatoes or sage, however.

8. Types of cucumbers.

Cucumbers are generally classed as slicing, pickling or burpless; however, all kinds can be used for slicing or pickling and the burping is dependent on you, not the cucumber. In India, a round yellow cucumber called Dosakai is used cooked in curry or made into chutney or pickles.

9. Cooking cukes.

The Chinese make a stirfry from cucumbers that includes garlic, salt, vinegar, sesame oil, chicken bouillon and red chiles, and of course, soya sauce. Julia Child made a baked cucumber recipe and certainly there are many cucumber pickles. But one of the best uses for cucumbers is in tzatziki, the Greek dish of yoghurt, garlic, lemon and cucumber that is so refreshing. Cold cucumber soup with salmon and dill is also delicious.

10. Other things you can do with cucumbers.

Place cucumber slices on your eyes to remove dark circles and puffiness. Rub cukes on your thighs to tighten collagen before going out in that bikini. Reduce wrinkles by rubbing cut cucumber over your skin. Eat cucumbers to help weight loss and reduce hunger - they are full of anti-oxidants, vitamins A, C, B and K as well as magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, tryptophan, potassium and beta carotene plus they have no calories. They are also useful around the house; cucumber removes soap scum from stainless steel and stops squeaking on hinges. A slice of cucumber held against the roof of the mouth will reduce bad breath (in case you forget your breath mints!).

- Dorothy Dobbie Copyright© Pegasus Publications, Inc.

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