Cool As A Cucumber

At long last I am getting a harvest of tasty fruits from the greenhouse. There have been a few disappointments of new plants but the season isn’t over yet, they may still give me an idea of what they are like.

L-R: Gardener’s Delight, Rosella, Sweet Aperitif, Ildi tomatoes with Lemon Cucumber

The cherry tomatoes were the first to ripen and are constantly getting nibbled. It is such a pleasure going into the greenhouse and picking fresh tomatoes from the vine. 

Although all are very sweet and tasty, I notice a slight difference in flavours. The biggest of the cherry tomatoes are Gardener’s Delight, a constant favourite and one I always grow. Usually very sweet but I think this year, the prize at the moment, has to go to Rosella, a deep pink tomato with a distinctive taste. Sweet Aperitif is another new favourite also very sweet. The yellow, new kid (or tomato) on the block, is Ildi, a sweet yellow, pear drop, cherry tomato and like the others, prolific producer. The fourth cherry tomato I am growing, Black Opal, hasn’t produced many fruits yet and the one I did taste, lacked a lot of the sweetness in the others. There is still time for the rest to ripen so the jury is still out on that one.

My first sowing of cucumber seeds, I just didn’t like. The pretty, luminous green Poona Kheera were, according to reports, one of the sweetest of the cucumbers but I found them one of the most bitter. I tried it at the pale stage, then when it changed to orange and finally brown and at each stage it got more and more bitter. I didn’t like it, and it was taking up space in the greenhouse, so, sadly it had to go. 

Poona Kheena cut c
Poona Kheera Cucumber

I quickly sowed some lemon cucumber seeds and now that they are ready for picking, they make up for losing the others. The good news is, they are nature’s own, not a hybrid, they are a heritage variety. Known also as crystal apple cucumber, the only resemblance it has to either lemons or apples is the size, shape and colour. About the size of a tennis ball, with a large seed centre and fine textured flesh, they are milder than the standard cucumber and can be eaten like an apple.

Crystal cucumbers

Cucumbers are low in calories, they are about 96% water so useful for rehydration. Full of antioxidants which may help to reduce the risk of heart and lung diseases, cancer and autoimmune diseases, so quite a little powerhouse of benefits. The lemon cucumber can be eaten whole, including the skin for maximum benefit. A knife will cut through it like butter.

Not content with health benefits, it can be added to beauty products and usually is at a commercial level. Tired, puffy eyes can be soothed by laying slices of cucumber on them while you relax and let the ascorbic and caffeic acid get to work, lightening the dark circles and reducing puffiness, while you sip one of the many cucumber cocktails. If you are not, by now, tempted to rush out and buy some seeds to get growing, you may change your mind had you known that the same antioxidants make it one of the best anti-ageing products. If you can eat it, wear it, or drink it, what more can you ask?

Cucamelon fruit
Ripening cucamelon

Cucamelon, a little bite-sized fruit with a cucumber taste, is a native of Mexico and South America but only recently promoted in the UK. They have a slightly sour, lemony taste in comparison with cucumbers. It is known under several names but mouse melon seems to be the most appropriate, they do look like tiny, little melons. They are not cucumbers although they are part of the same family, Cucurbitaceae, but different genuses. However, packed with similar antioxidants and minerals, providing health benefits to heart, eyes and skin and if that still isn’t enough, it too can be sipped in a cocktail.

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