My girl Pam likes her healthy snacks: carrot sticks, celery sticks and cucumber sticks. (I think all this health food puts the cosmic balance of our house out of whack, so I balance things out with Peanut Butter on toast.) Simply because I have never grown cucumbers before, I decided that I would have a go at providing Pam with some home-grown healthy crunchy munchies in the form of some Lebanese cucumbers.
Now, before you start hitting the comment button with "you're doing it wrong, Bozo" comments, yes I know I should be growing them up a trellis of some sort. The problem is that I've run out of space for trellises, and my vegie growing books say you can grow them along the ground, if you plant them into a raised mound. So that's what I'm doing. After a slowish start in October, rainy November has been just what the cucumber plants wanted.
The first of them is almost ready to harvest already. Naturally enough I've sown the cucumbers into soil enriched with a stack of home-made compost and generous handfuls of pelletised chicken manure. Cucumbers love their 'good going' so I hear.
While not spectacular the cucumber flowers are plentiful, cheerful and a pleasing sunny yellow for the brief time they appear.
Behind most of the flowers you can see the baby cucumbers already forming. No doubt we will end up with a glut, and so anyone coming over to our place will probably find some Greek-style Tzatziki dip on the table (for the recipe, see below).
"Where's my trellis, man?" asks the seeking tendril. Sorry bud, hit the low road, you're a groundcover plant this time round. While growing cucumbers on the ground definitely isn't recommended, I think I should be able to keep the fruit looking good by being attentive to keeping fresh straw mulch beneath the developing fruits. We'll just find out whether this works or not over the next few weeks, I guess.
While the wet weather is a blessing at the moment, it also threatens the usual curse of powdery mildew fungal attack which affects all the cucurbits such as cucumbers, zucchinis, marrows, squash, melons and pumpkins. This time round I'm using a new organic product called Eco-Fungicide. As far as I understand it, it's basically glorified bi-carb soda, but I've been told it works. You need to mix up a batch and use it all that day (it doesn't store), and that means adding a spoonful of the powder to water, along with a thimble full of vegetable oil or horticultural oil. So far so good - no powdery mildew on the plants, so it seems to work well. Last year I used the home-made organic solution of watered-down milk sprays, and these worked fairly well but you had to respray constantly, and it was a bit of a hassle to stay on top of the problem.
Finally, a recipe. Tzatziki for cucumber gluts.
1. Peel, deseed and grate 1 cucumber. Leave the grated cucumber to drain in a colander for 15 minutes, then squeeze out any remaining juice in your hands.
2. Mix the drained cucumber into 250g thick Greek plain yoghurt, then add 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint, crushed garlic to taste*, salt and pepper to taste.
Tzatziki is nice as a dip with bread or crackers, but it's also great dolloped on the side when serving barbecued meats, seafood, chicken etc.
* As for 'garlic to taste', real Greeks would add at least 4 cloves of crushed garlic to their Tzatziki, while lots of non-Greeks would think 1 clove of crushed garlic is probably a bit too much. So I'll leave the exact amount of crushed garlic up to you. I'm a 1 clove wimpy Anglo boy myself. I find too much garlic ruins the refreshing zing of this dish, with its tangy mint, vinegar and yoghurt flavours. But try to tell a Greek that too much garlic ruins it!