Odd Thoughts: Mini-cukes are proof of gardeners’ silliness

Columnist Bob Groeneveld writes about being a ham-fisted green thumb.

Gardeners are silly people.

I know because I’m one.

I base my case on the cucamelons growing in my greenhouse.

Also known as Mexican sour gherkins, cucamelons are not so much silly, as a silly thing to grow.

Here’s the thing, there aren’t enough of the right kind of bugs in the greenhouse to pollinate the cucamelons. So you have to pollinate them by hand… that is, by tweezer.

Now, I’ve been hand-pollinating cucumbers for years. It’s not too terribly hard. You find a male flower, strip it naked of its petals, and jam it into a female flower, twist it about a bit, and you’re off to the next one.

The effort nets you a beautiful cucumber, the size depending on the variety you’re growing, that looks similar to the ones you buy at the store… but there the comparison ends.

Folks, if you’ve never eaten a cucumber that you have grown yourself, you have no idea what cucumbers actually taste like.

I spend a few minutes a day at my cuke-pollination ritual. It becomes kind of zen-like, a brief pause each day in which you help the universe to grow in the right direction.

As I said, it’s not difficult, once you get the hang of it. The male flowers tend to be a couple of centimetres across for most varieties. They are easy to identify, easy to pick, and easy to defrock.

Cucamelons are much smaller than cucumbers, a bit over a centimetre. They look exactly like tiny watermelons. And I do not yet know what they taste like.

The flowers are like cucumber flowers, but minuscule. My fat fingers usually damage the male flowers irreparably before I get them free from the plant. So I must use tweezers.

And pulling off the petals? Ha! I have resorted to simply mushing the whole flower into its female counterpart, fingers crossed. This will provide,I have been assured, up to 100 cucamelons from my one plant.

There are today four nearly ripe cucamelons, each the size of a modestly endowed grape – the results so far of what seems like hundreds of hours of toil.

And yet I persist as though I am on a sacred quest.

And perhaps that is exactly the case.

For I am, indeed, a gardener. And as such, my guiding principle is that no plant shall be left behind (unless it’s a weed).