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Cucumbers are almost always harvested as immature fruits, while they are still green, and before they have turned yellow and grown bitter. Their growth habit — climbing, grasping vines, large yellow flowers, rough leaves, etc… — betrays their close botanical relationship to squash and melons, with which they are classified as Cucurbits. Just about all Cucurbits share similarities in their flowering and pollination as well. Male (pollen bearing) flowers appear first on the vine, followed by the larger female (pollen receiving) flowers. Female flowers have conspicuous ovaries at their base, which will swell into the actual fruit if pollination is successful. Male flowers are attached directly to the vine, with no “miniature fruit” at their bases.

Some cultivars have been developed that are “parthenocarpic,” which means they develop fruit without pollination, and their fruits contain no seeds. A few varieties are “gynoecious” and develop almost exclusively female flowers. These must be grown beside pollinator plants with abundant male flowers. The typical cucumber simply produces both kinds of flowers and requires pollen transfer by bees or by human intervention. In agricultural settings, masses of honeybees are transported to the cucumber field for this purpose.

To pollinate cucumbers, use a cotton swab or a fine, soft-hair paintbrush to lift pollen from the male flower and transfer it to the female. Pollen is produced at the tip of the central structure (another) of the male flower and received by the tip of the central structure (stigma) of the female flower. Some growers use scissors to carefully cut a male flower from the plant and then trim away the petals. This can then be brought in contact with the female stigma with a slight twisting motion. As long as some pollen is transferred, pollination and fruit set is very likely.

Tyria Organic

What a wonderful long English cucumber! The mildly sweet flesh is rarely bitter and covered by lightly ribbed, but smooth and tender skin. The parthenocarpic plants perform well in poly-tunnels or in the open field, producing seedless fruits without the benefit of pollination. But be sure to trellis them for the straightest fruits, which grow up to an amazing 35cm (14”) long. 

Early Fortune Organic

Described as the earliest and best white spine cucumber ever offered, Early Fortune Organic is a fresh and clean tasting slicer is descended from seeds first bred in Michigan in 1906. The plants are richly productive for the home or market gardener. It also makes gorgeous pickles. . Give the fruits a quick rub with a tea towel or similar cloth to remove spines at harvest time.

Because cucumbers are native to the tropics, they like warm weather, but not excessive, dry heat. The faster the soil warms up beneath them during the day, the faster and more ample the harvest will be. Raised beds and greenhouses both work well for this purpose. It’s worth providing them some form of support or trellis so that the fruits do not lie on the ground where they are exposed to slugs and prone to rotting. Trellised plants will exploit gravity and produce fruits that hang and grow straight. Fruits that develop on the ground may be curled or even grow into ring shapes.

Misshapen, yellowed cucumbers will be a thing of the past with this space-saving Large Cucumber Trellis to support cucumber (or zucchini) plants. The sturdy, powder-coated steel frame supports heavy loads and has big 10cm (4") grids for easy harvesting. Lean-to design provides room to sow salad greens under the trellis for an extra crop before the cucumber fruits mature. This trellis is 120cm (48") square and fits perfectly in a 4' wide raised bed. The trellis folds in half, and the attached support bars fold down for flat storage. This large cucumber trellis is large for cucumbers, not just a trellis for large cucumbers.

Cucumbers are most nutritious when the peel is left on each fruit. They are, of course, over 90% water. But they’re a good source of potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium, as well as vitamin C. High in carbohydrates and dietary fiber, a 100g serving of cucumber contains only 16 calories.

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