Field cucumber – Avomaankurkku
The two types of cucumber most familiar to us are field cucumber, sometimes known as gherkins and greenhouse cucumbers. Although these differ in appearance, they are just two different varieties of the same plant selected to be grown in different conditions. All cucumbers need a warm environment to grow (20-25c), the smaller field varieties are however hardier and will tolerate cooler conditions meaning they can be grown outdoors in Finland. It must be remembered that even the slightest hint of a frost will destroy them.
Field cucumbers take about 50-60 days to grow vines up to 1m long from which grow hairy leaves and the yellow flowers from which the fruits develop. The fruits are usually between 8-12cm long and are often covered to varying degrees in bumps, soft spines and ridges. Seeds must be sown into warm moist soil and the crop grown in a sheltered sunny location with ample manure and organic fertilizer. The crop must be kept well-watered and free from weeds.
Harvesting should begin as soon as the first fruits reach the desired size, and they are at their best when still slightly immature. Removing the fruits will stimulate the later fruits to grow and the plant to produce more flowers, this way it should be possible to harvest up to 1kg from each plant over a period of 2-4 weeks.
Field cucumbers are eaten fresh, fermented in brine or pickled. They contain over 97% water and have limited but valuable nutritious value, it is their sweet mild flavour and ease to use and prepare that make them popular, the low mineral and vitamin content supplementing our diet. At the correct temperature of 10 – 12c fresh cucumbers can be stored for about 1 week.
Quality problems include size when too large, age when left on the plant too long resulting in a bitter flavour, and incorrect or prolonged storage making them soft. Young slightly immature and not large or even slightly overripe fruits are most suitable for first class preservation products.