Cucumbers are like courgettes in that when they are growing well its easy to have to many at one time and as they are far better fresh we can end up wasting a fair number of the ones we have grown
one solution to this is to grow smaller cucumbers and these can come in a surprising number of colours, shapes and sizes
The commonest small cucumbers are gerkins which we tend to eat pickled and the variety Parisian Pickling a French heirloom variety has been grown for this from around late 1800 and was first listed in the James J. H. Gregory seed catalogue in 1892
Picked young and used extensively for the manufacturing of gherkins (cornichons) from the late 1800’s it has found a new lease of life as a small fresh cucumber as they are suitable for indoor and outdoor sowing and ideal for container growing.
The prolific plants produce blunt-ended fruits that average 15cm (6in) in length, the skin is medium green in colour with dark green spots with a nice crisp flesh that holds well when pickled.
You would of course need to peel it if you let it get huge or over-ripe (like any cucumber), but the skin is just fine to eat up to a normal size, so this a good choice if you only have room for one type of cucumber, but want pickles as well as salad.
A more modern alternative is Picolino these are sometimes called lunchbox cucumbers as there small enough for lunch or an additional salad on the table they produce lots fruit and being all femail there are no pollination problems and you can expect your first cucumbers after 50 days so there very quick and have good disease resistance to the common cucumber problems and will grow ok outdoors
But you can grow some more unusual varieties that are still small
Crystal lemon is a very old variety cultivated since in 1894. They were first introduced from New Zealand and appeared in Ferry Morse’s 1934 seed catalogue. Marketed as Crystal Lemon or Crystal Apple, each fruit is the size of a small apple, hence it was known as ‘Apple Cucumber’, but as its fruit is a pale yellow in colour when ready to eat it is often called ‘Crystal Lemon’.
These cucumbers do not smell or have the slightest taste of lemon or apples just the apperance that gives then there name
They taste very similar to a typical cucumber, with tender pale greenish skin and sweet flesh, they have the best flavour while young at about 5cm (2in). The skins toughen with age so pick them when they are small.
Lemon cucumbers are grown just like regular cucumbers. They are a vigorous climbing variety that can be grown indoors in a greenhouse or polytunnel or outdoors in humus rich, moist soil and sunshine
A favourite with children, Lemon cucumbers are perfect for popping into lunchboxes for a healthy snacks you can just eat them like an apple
By late summer this vigorous climber is smothered in small, round fruits like yellow tennis balls for months
Or what about the wonderfully named “Dragon’s Egg” just the perfect name and size for all children gardening. It is an heirloom cucumber cultivar prized for the large quantity of egg-shaped, creamy white fruit its been producing since late 1800’s
Originally from Croatia, its cream colored skin and chubby oval shape really do look like an egg growing from a vine. It has a refreshing,relatively sweet mild flavor, doesn’t need peeling, and yields well; a few plants will be all you need, picking them every one to two days for the best fruit and its quick taking 65 days to be ready for harvest and does well in a container
I grow most of my cucumbers is containers but you can grow them in the ground very successfully