Some of Richard’s Wright’s harvest of Natsuhikari cucumbers.
GARDENING I HAVE said it before — and will undoubtedly say it again — but the F1 hybrid Japanese Natsuhikari is… well, as cool as a cucumber.
I have been pleased this summer to have kept the St Mary’s Hospital maternity unit in Natsuhikari cucumbers and my midwife wife tells me they have gone down very well indeed.
But next year I will be planting but a solitary Natsuhikari, not the two which have taken over an entire side of my greenhouse this year.
So far, between them, the pair have produced 63 cucumbers and they are not quite finished yet.
What is special about this variety is both taste and, just as importantly, texture.
They are so completely different from supermarket cucumbers, which are, admittedly, as cheap as chips but do not taste nearly as good.
Hydroponics are, of course, used to produce cucumbers and tomatoes commercially because it is much easier to dose the plants with the appropriate measure of chemical feed.
There is no messy disease-prone compost to heft in and out of the houses either in industrial quantity.
They grow like fury on their chemical-water diet and are less prone to disease but I swear sometimes they taste mildly of fish. That might just be my old tortured taste buds.
I do commend the Japanese variety to all gardeners. They are a prime example of growing something you simply cannot buy in the shops.
The variety is happiest in the greenhouse but in a reasonable summer — should we get one — it should be alright in a sunny, sheltered spot, climbing or sprawling.
This hybrid variety is highly resistant to heat and disease. Fruits are 12ins long, low spined and with dark green skin. The plant grows vigorously and has many stems to produce lots of cucumbers for a long time.
Most orientals tend to be long — up to 18ins — but remaining less than two inches in diameter. The seed cavity is also very small and the flesh is thick, crisp and delicious.
Hybrid seed is expensive but then the yields are so much better than ordinary types and the flowers will be solely, or predominantly, female.
Should you need to look out for male flowers to pinch out, they are easily spotted because they have a skinny stem and the females a thicker cucumber-in-miniature for their stem.
Low in calories and refreshing — cucumbers are 96 per cent water — they are a great, crunchy, dieting fill-you-up.
Natsuhikari seems to have dropped out of the Dobies of Devon catalogue, but I found it at www.evergreenseeds.com, an American company I have not previously dealt with.
Evergreen Seeds does seem to have all manner of varieties of orientals of many shapes and sizes, including those for pickling.
• The next few weeks — soil conditions permitting — are the very best time to sow broad beans, onion sets and garlic to give them a head start. Much better than the spring.