Friday, January 15, 2010

Cucumbers: 'insert the male flower carefully into the female flower'

I trotted off to the Hobart Bookshop to buy The Royal Horticultural Society's Fruit and Vegetable Gardening in Australia.  I browsed a massive selection of gardening books before choosing this one because it's

a) focussed on Australian climates and seed availablity,

b) has lots of colour pictures and good diagrams (great for visual people like me)

c) covers everything from compost and weeds, to individual plant varieties in detail,

and most importantly...

d) is clearly written in everyday language.

I really wanted to find out about the spikes on my Lebanese Cumber that I was querying in my previous post, and whether or not at 12cm it's ready to harvest.

They don't answer my hairy question, but I have learned what seems to me, a kinky fact about cucumbers (and pumpkins, zucchinis and melons, apparently for that matter.  My confusion in distinguishing between my pumpkin and cucumber plants is not because I'm stupid after all!).

I'll admit at this point that I often giggle my way around the garden patch.  Last night when I was out measuring my cucumber with a ruler (while sucking on an icypole), the old woman behind me stuck her head over then fence and said

"hello dear, what are you doing?"

"oh [embarrassed, blushing]... I'm measuring my cucumber [waving the ruler in the air]. I want to see if it's bigger than my mother's.  Do you know why it could be so hairy?"

Now, the conversation was totally innocent.  But for some reason, everything I said seemed to have some sort of sexual connotation, and it was all I could do to keep myself from laughing.

Then I was looking in this gardening book this morning, and came across this handy hint about hand-pollinating cucumbers:

Help cucurbit plants [cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, melons etc.] to set fruit by pollinating them by hand, rather than waiting for insects to do it.  Pick a fully open male flower - one with no embryonic fruit at the base - and carefully pinch off all the petals to expose the stamens, which bear the powdery yellow pollen.

Insert the male flower carefully into a female flower - one that has an embryonic fruit - so that the pollen is transferred from the male stamens onto the stigma of the female flower.

Surely after almost 3 decades on this earth, I should be more mature as to not get amused/slightly grossed out at the thought of 'assisting' cucumber plants in this way.  But no.

Still, I want my garden to be successful, so I went outside to give it a go and discovered that I seem to have only female flowers:
female flowers are the ones with the baby cucumbers between the stem and the flower

It looks like my poor cucumber will just have to pleasure itself.  At least it won't have to argue about who will put the garbage out though.

Oh, and I ended up picking and eating the cucumber, despite its spiny features (I peeled it in the end):

It was a lot milder than the Lebanese Cucumbers I buy in the shops, although it quite sweet and not as bitter.

1 comment:

  1. Hahahahaha!!! That discussion with your neighbour is hilarious! I remember reading about 'hand pollination' in Stephanie Alexander's book, it made me feel a little giggly too! As garden-keen as I am at the moment, I'm not sure I want to get that 'intimate' with my plants....