Planting six cucumber plants was, it turns out, excessive. No matter how much cucumber soup you intend to make.
I have been swamped by them for weeks now. Thriving as they do in warm wet conditions they've taken to this muggy Summer of ours like a duck to water, or should that be a cucurbit to the jungle? (No? Well, you're probably right.) Mine are in the greenhouse and I've grown Diva and Iznik varieties this year. There's some fiddliness about which varieties can be grown indoors versus outdoors and some additional, and related, complexities about which have all-female flowers and which have a mix of male and female. It's all a step beyond my poor showing in school biology, but I've found the all female varieties work wonderfully in greenhouses (presumably it's a pollination thing) and require little care.
In fact, the only care I really give them, apart from water and feed, is pretty tough love. They are so vigorous that an almost bi-weekly hacking is required to remove extra vines that are intent on colonising the greenhouse. The cucumber, like most squashes, is a creeper so, left unchecked, it will send out as many runners as it can. The (old-fogey) allotment books tell you to pinch out all but two of the vines and train them up a wire, but I've found that all the shoots bear fruit and pruning is a matter of space management rather than crop maximisation. I tether a few to vertical stakes, but many ramble around the greenhouse and seem quite happy.
Oh no, maximisation of harvest is not an issue at all. By my reckoning, each plant has produced roughly 20 cucumbers so far and they show no sign of slowing down as September sets in. But there is only so much Hendricks, cucumber and tonic a girl can drink (yes, even this one), so some have gone in the freezer for smoothies and many have gone into making this chilled cucumber soup. I used this cucumber soup as tasters at Wilderness Festival and at Soho Farmhouse and so, by popular request from everyone I met at those events (thank you for coming), here is the recipe:
4 cucumbers (roughly 4 inches long each)
1 clove garlic
4 tbsp plain yogurt
Handful mint, chopped
Peel 2 of the cucumbers and roughly chop them all. Some peel is good for colour but too much makes for a grainy soup. Not good.
Pop the cucumber in a blender together with a dash of water and the crushed garlic. A NutriBullet is ideal for this as it gives a silky smooth finish, but you'll need to do it in batches.
Tip the mixture into a large bowl. Add the yogurt and enough water to give the soup the consistency of double cream.
Season well with salt, lemon juice and the chopped mint. It's surprising how much salt this dish can take and remember to over season as, once chilled, the flavours will be deadened.
Chill until needed then serve with an ice-cube and a slice of cucumber.
This recipe, and many more seasonal dishes, can be found on my blog: glutsandgluttony.com