With unlimited appetite but only limited space I’ve been experimenting with growing some crops vertically. I bought a very cheap arch from B&Q and planted the legs into the soil next to the fence. The bench is made of a couple of piles of bricks and an old plank. It faces south-west so its a perfect spot to sit in the late afternoon sun. The main reason I put it in was that I was really keen to grow uchiki kuri squash (also known as onion squash). I’d read somewhere that as they only grow to about the size of a large grapefruit it was possible to grow them vertically, and so I thought it would be worth a try. I love squash and I think that the uchiki kuri is one of the best flavoured as well as being an ideal size. Crown Prince is also delicious and is a beautiful greeny grey on the outside but its much larger and unless you’re careful you tend to end up with three-quarters of an uneaten squash taking up all the space in the fridge for weeks as it gradually moulders away and is then thrown on the compost.
The plants are growing well up the frame but have needed lots of twisty tie (rubber coated wire ties) to support them and to encourage the leader to grow upwards. Some of the mini squash have started to set behind the flower only to rot a few weeks later but I’ve got at least three big healthy looking squash like this and a few others which I’m hoping will grow and ripen up more if we have a good September.
On the other side of the arch I’ve got cucumbers growing up amongst sweet peas. They were an impulse buy at the local garden centre so I’ve got no idea what variety they are. One is smooth and tasty, the other is prickly and has been variable – some of the prickly cucumbers were delicious but others were quite bitter. Apparently its to do with having both male and female flowers on the plant? As well as the obvious – chopping them up in green salads – a friend of mine made this one evening and it was so simple and delicious that I’m sharing it.
Pickled cucumber salad
100 ml white wine vinegar
100g caster sugar
Peel the cucumbers and slice into thin ribbons using a mandolin or a vegetable peeler. Sprinkle with salt and leave for 10 minutes to draw out the juices.
Heat together the vinegar and sugar over a low temperature until the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool.
Rinse the salted cucumber several times to get rid of the excess salt and dry.
Pour the cooled vinegar over the cucumber and leave to pickle for half an hour. Turn several times during this period to ensure that the vinegar is coating all the cucumber. At first it looks as though there isn’t nearly enough vinegar but don’t worry, the vinegar will draw more moisture out of the cucumber which will diminish in volume. Drain the mixture and serve. My friend served this with freshly caught and barbecued mackerel and they were delicious together, but its equally lovely in a sandwich with freshly picked tomatoes and cheese.